Man Denied Diversion after Allegedly Grabbing Someone without COVID Mask

By Casey Rawlings

SANTA BARBARA, CA –Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Pauline Maxwell denied a petition for diversion for a man this week who allegedly grabbed by the neck someone who wasn’t wearing a mask as required by COVID.

In the case, the man’s attorney advocated for his client’s appropriateness for diversion, citing that he has been on great behavior since the assault. The attorney also mentioned that his client hasn’t been in contact with the law enforcement involved with the case, further exemplifying his good behavior.

The prosecution, however, disagreed, stating, “I firmly disagree. I don’t think a violation of COVID rules warrants choking somebody out…and while these two individuals may not have contact with each other again, what if somebody else upsets the defendant?”

Judge Maxwell responded by deeming the case unworthy of diversion, suggesting that a probation term would be better suitable. She recommended to the attorney, clearly passionate about his client’s compliance, that his client could go to trial, but ultimately denied the motion.

When asked to expand upon her reasoning for denial, Judge Maxwell replied that “because of the violence involved, in my opinion it was unprovoked. Certainly violating COVID rules—you know, seeing people walking into a store without a mask on—you can’t just go and grab them by the throat.”

She concluded by describing the crime as an “unprovoked attack, that wouldn’t serve the defendant’s best interest by dismissing the case.”

The defense attorney, in response, requested a chamber conference, noting a jury may be more sympathetic toward the man accused of assault, given the current severity of the pandemic.

Parties will return for a chamber conference on Oct. 31.

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