U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams pleaded not guilty after he was cited by Honolulu police for entering a closed park in violation of the city’s coronavirus restrictions, The Associated Press reported.
Adams, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, was cited by police in early August after he was allegedly found taking pictures at a park on the island of Oahu that was closed due to the virus. Adams’s aide, Dennis Anderson-Villaluz, who also was cited, also pleaded not guilty.
When a police officer found them, Adams reportedly said he didn’t know that parks were closed.
As part of the Trump administration’s effort to counter a surge of CCP virus infections among Oahu’s residents, Adams brought 60,000 tests with him when he visited the island and worked with local authorities to test 5,000 people per day for two weeks.
“It’s an embarrassment to the state,” said Michael Green, an attorney representing Adams in Hawaii. “They’re treating him like he brought the pandemic here.”
Green told the AP that Hawaiian officials waived a requirement for Adams to quarantine for 14 days when he arrived in the state because he was there to help with the pandemic.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute that because he’s the surgeon general … his rights are any greater than other citizens,” Green said, according to the AP. “But he shouldn’t be treated worse because of that status. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
“I don’t even know if they can prove he took pictures,” he said.
In a statement to the AP, a spokesperson for the Honolulu prosecuting attorney’s office said that “no one is given special treatment under the law regardless of who they are,” and that “all defendants have the same right to due process as anyone else.”
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, a Democrat, issued an emergency order in early August, closing most of the city’s parks and facilities including beaches, pools, and playgrounds. According to the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, Caldwell’s order allowed for people to traverse a park to access the ocean, but people weren’t allowed to remain in the park for any activities.
Violating any of the mayor’s emergency orders is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both, if found guilty.
An anesthesiologist with experience in containing HIV and MERS outbreaks, Adams became the 20th surgeon general in 2017 after being nominated by President Donald Trump.