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COVID deniers take vandalism case to Ohio Supreme Court

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Photos from court documents of stickers placed on the Plain City Public Library.

The Plain City Public Library asked her to leave in January 2021 for repeatedly refusing to wear her mask, as was state policy at the time.

Court records indicate Julie Dean’s “unruly behavior had been a continual issue for the library.” Two months later she came back with her husband and some hard-to-remove stickers.

“THERE IS NO PANDEMIC,” reads the first one. “Your own government is waging psychological warfare on you.”

“LIVE IN FEAR,” reads the other. “(It makes you easier to control.)”

Julie and Samuel Dean were subsequently accused and convicted of misdemeanor criminal charges of trespassing and criminal mischief. Their case set off a bizarre bout of trials and appeals that distill some of the anger and paranoia that continues to dog the coronavirus pandemic.

Their case, which led to a $250 fine and two-day prison sentence, is now pending with the Ohio Supreme Court. The stickers, placed on a library drop box installed during the pandemic, have since only been partially removed.

After the court appointed the Deans an attorney, the couple fired him and chose to represent themselves. They soon filed near-identical motions a judge found nearly impossible to decipher but mentioned an objection to “undertake a medical intervention without any informed consent and without any medical necessity.”

In a pre-trial hearing, Samuel Dean asked that the court dismiss the charges against him, claiming in prepared remarks that his rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act were violated. However, court records state he repeatedly “refused” to say what kind of accommodations he sought. When a judge said he can’t help if he doesn’t know how, Samuel Dean read the same prepared statement again.

“That does nothing for me,” the judge said.

He later found Samuel Dean in contempt for talking over him and fined him $250. The judge then called Julie Dean’s case. She then read the same prepared remarks as her husband before telling the judge that he had “been served.”

“Well, I haven’t,” the judge responded before setting the matter for trial.

The deans then both filed affidavits with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to disqualify the judge from their case. Those were denied.

The case then went to trial. The Deans acted as their own attorneys. After 20 minutes of deliberation, a jury found each of them guilty on two counts. They each received a $250 fine and 90 days in jail, but they only needed to serve two. They haven’t yet served those sentences.

The trespassing charge against Samuel Dean was dismissed on appeal earlier this month. Judge Stephen Powell of the Twelfth Appellate District found that because he hadn’t been previously banned from the library, he wasn’t trespassing. (A dissenting judge argued his criminal intent to deface the library should have waived his privilege to be on its property.)

On Monday, the Deans appealed their case to the Ohio Supreme Court. L. Bradfield Hughes, an attorney with Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur, said in court filings that the case raised “questions of public and great general interest.”

They argued they have been improperly denied the use of an ADA coordinator at lower court proceedings. An attorney with the Madison County Prosecuting Attorneys office denied this, noting that both state and federal courts who reviewed the matter ruled there has been no such violation. In the related federal lawsuit, Julie Dean claimed she suffers from hearing and memory loss. Samuel Dean said he suffers PTSD. These disabilities, they said, “substantially limit their life activities” and were ignored by the court. The claims were dismissed.

Attorneys for both sides didn’t respond to phone calls.

Chris Long, director of the library, said in an interview that it’s easy to focus on the loudest blips on the radar. But far more prevalent are ordinary bookworms staying positive in a difficult era.

“Public libraries, we see a lot everyday, pandemic and no,” she said. “For every difficult situation, we encounter dozens more of people wanting to help.”


This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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