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California maskless woman, 57, in grocery store convicted of trespassing

  • JEFF GRITCHEN/THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA AP / OCT. 20
                                Marianne Campbell Smith, left, and her attorney, Frederick W. Fascenelli leave the West Justice Center in Westminster, Calif., during a lunch break in her trial. Smith, who refused to leave a Costa Mesa grocery store, was convicted of trespassing on Wednesday after becoming the only person to go on trial in Orange County for not following pandemic-driven face-covering mandates at local businesses.

    JEFF GRITCHEN/THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER VIA AP / OCT. 20

    Marianne Campbell Smith, left, and her attorney, Frederick W. Fascenelli leave the West Justice Center in Westminster, Calif., during a lunch break in her trial. Smith, who refused to leave a Costa Mesa grocery store, was convicted of trespassing on Wednesday after becoming the only person to go on trial in Orange County for not following pandemic-driven face-covering mandates at local businesses.

WESTMINSTER, Calif. >> A Southern California woman who refused to wear a mask or leave a grocery store last year was convicted of trespassing and obstructing a business or customers.

The jury found Marianne Campbell Smith guilty on Wednesday and Orange County Superior Court Judge John Zitny sentenced her to 40 hours of community service, a year of informal probation and a $200 fine, the Orange County Register reported.

Smith, 57, was arrested on Aug. 15, 2020 at Mother’s Market in the city of Costa Mesa, where an anti-mask protest against California’s mask mandate to prevent the spread of the coronavirus was happening nearby.

In a statement in court before sentencing, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said the case centered on property rights.

“The defendant wanted to make this about masks and freedom,” Spitzer said. “This trial was about a private business and workers just trying to comply with health orders. Instead she bullied her way around the store and yelled at masked elderly shoppers that they were part of a government conspiracy.”

Smith said she cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition and her lawyer said she went into the store to get food, not to protest.

“Justice was not served, but I accept it,” Smith, 57, said outside the courthouse. “Because it was important to talk about these issues today.”

The Register newspaper said the case marked one of few times in which arrests or criminal charges involving mask requirements have been pursued in Orange County, where police and prosecutors have focused on education and outreach regarding coronavirus restrictions.

Another woman arrested with Smith previously accepted a plea deal requiring a donation to a coronavirus relief fund and admitted to an infraction for refusing to leave the store when a police officer ordered her to leave the premises at the owner’s request. A third woman who entered with them apparently left before police responded.

Defense attorney Frederick Fascenelli questioned why Smith wasn’t charged with violating mask requirements that had been added to Costa Mesa’s municipal code.

“This thing is all political,” Fascenelli said. “They are trying to shoehorn in these trespassing charges because they don’t want to touch the third rail of politics that is a mask mandate.”

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