U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and an aide are scheduled to 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.
Attorney Michael Green appeared on behalf of Adams and his aide, Dennis Anderson-Villaluz, at a videoconferencing hearing Wednesday before Judge William Domingo at Kaneohe District Court. Both men were cited for allegedly violating an emergency order.
The court waived appearances for Adams and Anderson-Villaluz, who were not present.
At the hearing, Green entered a not guilty plea on Adams’ behalf. He also said he is not waiving the right to a jury trial for Adams and Anderson-Villaluz.
The court transferred the case to Circuit Court, where arraignments for both men are scheduled for Nov. 2.
According to the Aug. 23 citation issued to Adams, a police officer observed Adams at Kualoa Regional Park in Kaneohe standing with two other males, “looking at the view taking pictures” shortly before 10 a.m. The officer further stated in the citation that they moved to the center of the park, where they took more photos and “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 were 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 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. Honolulu police also stepped up enforcement and created special COVID enforcement teams funded by coronavirus relief monies.
The email the state sent to Adams confirming his exemption also advised him to review the county rules and to consult with county authorities about their requirements and restrictions.
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.
Because the violation is a misdemeanor, individuals have a right to a jury trial. Most people waive their right to a jury trial, according to attorney David Hayakawa, who is not representing Adams or Anderson-Villaluz.
A huge number of emergency order violation- related citations are typically dismissed without prejudice before people appear in district court as the court system is dealing with a massive backlog.
Of the cases that do appear in district court, Hayakawa said many individuals are offered a plea deal for first-time, non-egregious violations and the charges are amended to a non-criminal violation with a $50 to $100 fine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.