Resident Courtney Evans refused to wear a mask at her court hearing for a third time on March 30, so San Benito County Judge Patrick Palacios issued a bench warrant for her arrest, with bail set at $6,000.
Evans was arrested on Dec. 15 prior to a San Benito County Board of Supervisors meeting. She faces charges of trespassing and resisting arrest.
“My understanding is Miss Evans is outside of the courthouse, but refusing to wear a mask so that she can enter the building,” Palacios said at the hearing. He noted that Evans appeared on Zoom at her first hearing and knows it’s an alternative to appearing in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
District Attorney Candice Hooper told the court that on March 9, the judge provided the opportunity for Evans to appear on Zoom, and Evans declined. Palacios then continued the hearing with a warning to Evans that if she did not appear by Zoom or in person wearing a face mask, he would issue a warrant for her arrest.
Evans was scheduled to appear in San Benito County Superior Court at 9:30 a.m. to identify her counsel. She and about 15 supporters were outside the courthouse requesting entry prior to the hearing. San Benito County Sheriff’s deputies denied them entry.
“I have a right to be here,” Evans told the deputies, adding that they were preventing a witness from entering the court for a hearing.
Two hours later when the hearing was over, Evans made a statement to her supporters. She said the court was denying her due process and that they were denying her health and religious beliefs by not allowing her entry.
“I have a right to enter with my religious beliefs protected,” Evans said.
Some supporters told the deputies that the Zoom link provided to them did not work. Deputies responded that the hearing was over.
“They logged into Zoom all day and they were getting logged off, they wouldn’t let them in,” Evans told BenitoLink. “She [a supporter] went in a couple times to ask for the Zoom link and no one was ever called for my name on Zoom. They never accepted them into the room, they were in the waiting room.”
In Zoom conference calls, an administrator has the option to manually approve attendees before they can see or hear participants on the call. Inside the courtroom, the screen used for Zoom calls appeared to be off. Zoom can also be used over the phone, but no audio played in the courtroom.
BenitoLink’s request for media access for the hearing was initially denied by visiting Judge Gilbert Brown on March 23, but Palacios granted access during the hearing as the court had previously granted access to other hearings.
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