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IPFS News Link • Courtroom and Trials

A North Carolina Man Was Jailed for Refusing To Wear a Mask in Court


A North Carolina man was jailed for 24 hours for contempt of court last week. His offense? Refusing to wear a mask in court.

On October 10, Gregory Hahn arrived at a Harnett County, North Carolina, courthouse to report for jury duty. There were no local mask ordinances in place and no mask mandate at the courthouse.

"There were signs saying no masks were required," Hahn later told WRAL, a local news station.

However, Judge Charles Gilchrist had his own rules. After arriving, Hahn and the other 98 potential jurors were informed that masks would be required in Judge Gilchrist's courtroom. "You can go in any district courtroom without a mask, you can come into superior clerk court without a mask and the [district attorney's] office without a mask, but with Judge Gilchrist he has a mandate that you must wear a mask," Clerk of Superior Court Renee Whittenton told WRAL, adding that, of the superior court judges in the county, Gilchrist is the only one with a mask mandate.

When Hahn refused to mask, he found himself behind bars.

While judges have wide latitude to find individuals in contempt of court—including for failing to abide by the personal rules of the judge—this case shows how easily judges can abuse their power to punish people for seemingly innocuous offenses.

According to WRAL, Hahn was sent to speak with Gilchrist directly about his refusal. After Gilchrist asked him again to wear a mask and he again refused, Gilchrist sentenced Hahn to 24 hours in county jail, after which he was swiftly taken into custody and held with no bond.