A rural North Carolina judge sent a potential juror to jail without bond for refusing to wear a mask.
Yet, North Carolina has no mask mandate.
And the courthouse has no signs saying a mask is required.
However, Harnett County resident Gregory Hahn was sentenced to 24 hours in the county jail with no bail for contempt of court.
His ‘crime’ was choosing to breathe fresh air inside the courthouse when he showed up for jury duty.
It’s almost 2023 and we’re still doing this mask nonsense.
Even though there are no signs to wear a mask in the courthouse, a “joint order from Harnett and Lee County officials (the two counties that comprise this judicial district) grants individual judges or the Clerk of Superior Court or the District Attorney the right to require them in their courtrooms or personal offices,” according to RedState.
“This requirement is not communicated to potential jurors ahead of time, though, according to Hahn, and nothing in the joint order says residents can be thrown in jail if they decline to wear one.”
The joint order states, per WRAL-TV:
A joint order dated March 10, 2022, issued by Harnett and Lee counties states:
- Masks are optional in the hallways, foyers, restrooms, meeting rooms and similar areas
- The presiding judge in each courtroom may decide, in their discretion, whether masks are required in the courtroom
- The ranking official in each courthouse agency (for example the Clerk of the Court, District Attorney, etc.) shall determine in their discretion, whether masks are required in their respective officesAny person who chooses can wear a mask
- The order is subject to revision based on public health conditions and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Just one Superior Court Judge, C. Winston Gilchrist, require them in his courtroom.
When Hahn refused to wear a mask, Gilchrist went on a power trip.
No potential juror was made aware of Gilchrist’s mandate before Monday’s orientation, Hahn said. It wasn’t listed on the summons Hahn received. The courthouse also does not have signs requiring masks.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to wear a mask,’” Hahn said. “He said, ‘I understand you don’t want to wear a mask,’ and I said, ‘That is correct, sir,’ and he says ‘why?’”
Hahn said Gilchrist asked him again if he would refuse to wear a mask in the courtroom. Again, Hahn said he wouldn’t wear one.
“[Gilchrist] said ‘24 hours in the Harnett County jail,’” Hahn said.
Within minutes, Hahn was handcuffed, had his mugshot taken and jailed under no bond for contempt of court.
“I never thought this could happen in this country,” Hahn said.
Hahn said he asked the judge to excuse him since it was one day in jail.
Hahn told WRAL News that Gilchrist said, “I could, but I’m not going to.”
Public records show Hahn has only gotten a speeding ticket.
Hahn is a single father. He said he asked Gilchrist if he call his son at home. Gilchrist also refused, Hahn said.
“I was dumbfounded,” Hahn said. “I felt it was bullying.”
Hahn explained what it was like to spend 24 hours in jail.
“It was the worst 24 hours of my life,” Hahn said. “I have been through a lot.”
Hahn said Gilchrist brought his personal beliefs into the courtroom.“I’m im jailed for doing my civic duty and not doing anything,” Hahn said. “It’s mind-boggling.”
When WRAL News asked Hahn if he’d consider filing a lawsuit, he said it is not out of the question.
As someone who previously worked as the official court reporter in this courthouse and lived in this county, I know that while it’s rural, it has limited judicial resources that were surely wasted by Gilchrist’s power trip. Harnett County, where many Special Forces soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg live, is full of potential jurors who would have no patience with Judge Gilchrist’s asinine order. As Hahn noted, Gilchrist was not wearing a mask while holding Hahn in contempt, and there was no mask mandate at the Harnett County Jail. So what, exactly, was the point of him holding Hahn in contempt of court and putting his child at risk?