HONOLULU — A lawyer for U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams pleaded not guilty Monday on behalf of the official who was cited by Honolulu police for being in a closed park during a trip to help Hawaii cope with a spike in coronavirus cases.
Adams didn’t travel Hawaii for the arraignment.
Adams’ aide Dennis Anderson-Villaluz, who was also cited last month, also pleaded not guilty to violating the emergency order.
When an officer found them at Kualoa Regional Park, the mayor had closed all beach parks to prevent gatherings of people. Adams was taking in the view and taking photos at the park on Oahu’s northeastern coast, according to the citation.
Adams told the officer he was visiting Hawaii to work with the governor for COVID-19 and didn’t know parks were closed.
“It’s an embarrassment to the state,” Adams’ Honolulu defense attorney, Michael Green, said after Monday’s hearing. “They’re treating him like he brought he pandemic here.”
Government officials had waived for Adams a requirement that travelers to Hawaii quarantine for 14 days because he was helping the state, Green said.
“I’m not suggesting for a minute that because he’s the surgeon general … his rights are any greater than other citizen,” Green said. “But he shouldn’t be treated worse because of that status. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
Honolulu prosecutors said they will treat the case like any other. “No one is given special treatment under the law regardless of who they are,” said a statement from Deborah Kwan, a spokeswoman for the Honolulu prosecuting attorney’s office. “All defendants have the same right to due process as anyone else.”
Adams was in the park with his aide and a tour guide to see if he wanted to go for a swim, Green said, which was allowed. “I don’t even know if they can prove he took pictures,” Green said.
Violating any of the mayor’s emergency orders is punishable as a misdemeanor. If found guilty, Adams and his aide face fines of up to $5,000, up to a year in jail, or both.