YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A Youngstown police officer who appealed a contempt charge and 10-day jail sentence for not wearing a mask in court has lost his appeal.
Thomas Wisener was sentenced last March after he refused to wear a mask in court Feb. 23 when he was to testify as a witness.
The court’s mandate had stated that all people, regardless of vaccination status, had to wear a mask.
Wisener claimed religious reasons for not wearing a mask and said the criminal charge instead of a civil one was not appropriate in this case.
Thomas argued among other religious beliefs that “he cannot love God if he shows fear of the virus and that he is to emulate God by not lying but would be lying by complying with the mask mandate due to his belief that mask would not protect others,” court documents stated.
The court said Thomas could have challenged the court’s mask order prior to showing up without a mask or appeared by video. They added that some of his arguments on appeal were never brought up to the trial court and that his argument was vague and his objection contained unexplained personal opinion “transformed into a religious tenant.”
“Appellant failed to a make a prima face case…by connecting a sincere religious belief to the mask order to show it had a coercive affect in the practice of his religion. The assignment of error is overruled.”
Thomas also argued that he should have been charged with civil contempt and not criminal, which would have likely resulted in a lighter resolution, saying that he did not disrupt any court process and only violated an order meant to protect others, according to court documents. But the panel disagreed with that, too, saying it was up to the description of the court.
“Even an indirect contempt be dealt with as criminal contempt…although it may seem harsh, the ten-day jail sentence was well below the statutory maximum,” the panel wrote.
Court records did not indicate if Wisener intends to appeal this decision or when or if he will serve jail time. His 10-day sentence was stayed pending his appeal.