Oregon man briefly jailed after refusing to wear face mask in court

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SWEET HOME, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon man who was scheduled to appear in court for a harassment charge and a traffic violation was briefly jailed for contempt after he refusal to wear a mask and walked out of the courtroom.

John Kulbeth told The Oregonian/OregonLive that when he got to Sweet Home Municipal Court Wednesday a court clerk told him masks were required in the courtroom.

He said he told them it was his choice and that he wouldn’t wear one. When he entered the courtroom, Judge Larry Blake Jr. told him to put one on but Kulbeth said he told the judge he had health issues and would not wear one.

The judge then threatened him with contempt and police arrested Kulbeth after he walked out.

After about 90 minutes in jail, Kulbeth was taken back inside the courtroom where the judge granted him a continuance for the proceeding and told him he needed to wear a mask, Kulbeth said.

While Kulbeth said he had no idea a mask would be required, Sweet Home city manager Ray Towry said Kulbeth’s notice to appear included a paragraph spelling out new court procedures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Towry said if Kulbeth had a medical issue that needed accommodation, the court would have obliged, but Kulbeth never asked for such treatment.

“He claimed medical issues, but he did not give the judge a chance to work out any accommodation,” Towry said.

Towry also said Kulbeth was not arrested because he refused to wear a mask, but because he walked out of the courtroom during an interaction with a judge.

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