U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and an aide will be arraigned in an Oahu court next month after police cited the two men in late August for being in a Kaneohe park during a COVID-19 emergency order-mandated closure of the island’s beach parks.
A video-conference hearing was held today before Judge William Domingo at Kaneohe District Court where attorney Michael Green appeared on behalf of Adams and his aide, Dennis Anderson-Villaluz. Both men were cited for allegedly violating an emergency order.
The court waived appearances for Adams and Anderson-Villaluz who were not present.
At today’s hearing, Green, said his client understands the charge and will plead not guilty.
Green said he is not waiving their right to a jury trial. Domingo set their arraignments for Nov. 2 at Circuit Court.
According to the Aug. 23 citation issued to Adams, a police officer observed Adams at Kualoa Regional Park in Kaneohe standing with two other men, “looking at the view taking pictures” shortly before 10 a.m. The citation further said Adams put his mask on as he walked back toward his vehicle.
Adams was in Hawaii helping the state with surge testing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. He told the officer he was working with the governor for COVID-19 and didn’t know that the parks were closed.
Green said a tour guide took a photo with Adams and Anderson-Villaluz right by the water. They decided not to go swimming and was walking back to their vehicle when police cited them.
At the time of the city’s emergency order concerning closures of beach parks, people were only allowed to traverse beaches to access the ocean.
Adams had sent an email to state officials requesting an exemption for Hawaii’s quarantine for travelers. The email to Adams confirming his exemption included links to county rules that were in effect including the order closing parks on Oahu.
At the time, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell closed Oahu’s beach parks to prevent crowd gatherings during a surge in coronavirus cases.
When asked to comment on the citation and upcoming arraignment, spokeswoman Kate Migliaccio-Grabill for the Office of the Surgeon General said in an email: “This is an ongoing matter being handled by (Vice Admiral) Adams’ attorney. VADM Adams maintains his dedication to promoting and following the 3 W’s of COVID-19 prevention—washing your hands, wearing a mask, and watching your distance—as the best ways to prevent transmission.”
Anderson-Villaluz also declined to comment.
Violation of an emergency order is considered a misdemeanor that carries penalties of up to a $5,000 fine, up to a year in jail, or both.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.