Honolulu’s new prosecutor, Steve Alm, submitted a motion Tuesday seeking to dismiss charges against U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams and his aide for allegedly violating an emergency COVID-19 order at an Oahu beach in August.
“A prosecutor’s primary goal is doing justice. And for every case that we look at, this one included, you have to look at the facts and the law and decide is prosecution going to help to achieve that goal or not. And based on all of the facts and circumstances here, we felt going forward in this case does not achieve that goal,” said Alm in an interview with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The charges against Adams, who had traveled to Hawaii to help Gov. David Ige launch COVID-19 surge testing across the state, has sparked outrage in Hawaii and on the mainland, according to attorney Michael Green, who is representing Adams and his aide, Dennis Anderson- Villaluz.
“I was angry and humiliated and embarrassed for what our state did to this doctor,” Green said.
Alm’s motion seeking to dismiss the charges is pending before the 1st Circuit Court.
“We fully expect the judge to sign this and approve it,” Alm said, noting he expects the charges to be dismissed in the next few days.
Police cited Adams and his aide at Kualoa Regional Park in Kaneohe on the morning of Aug. 23.
A temporary shutdown of all Oahu beach parks was in place at the time under former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s emergency order to prevent large social gatherings in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Loitering or sitting on the beach was prohibited; however, individuals were still allowed to traverse a beach to enter the ocean during the shutdown.
The men’s tour guide, Kelmer Beck, took them to the park to go swimming. Green said they walked to the ocean but decided not to go swimming because the water appeared murky.
During their walk back to the vehicle, the men briefly stopped twice when their tour guide took a photo of them with Chinaman’s Hat in the background and another photo with the Kualoa Mountains.
When they reached their vehicle, police officers approached them and cited them for allegedly violating the emergency order.
According to the citation, Adams told police he was visiting Hawaii to work with the governor for COVID-19 and didn’t know the parks were closed.
The state exempted Adams and his aide from the 14-day quarantine required of most visitors at the time.
An emergency order violation is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine, a year in jail or both.
“I looked at the facts and circumstances of the ticket being issued,” Alm said. He also reviewed Beck’s case where the tour guide pleaded no contest at Kaneohe District Court in October to a lesser offense of simple trespassing, a noncriminal violation, and paid a $100 fine.
“I just thought proceeding with this would not be in the interest of justice,” Alm added.