Rural North Carolina Judge Sends Potential Juror to Jail - With No Bond - For Refusing to Wear Mask

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was edited post-publication to reflect the charge that sent Hahn to jail, to clarify Judge Gilchrist’s name, and add the assertion that this potential punishment was not mentioned to jurors.)


There is no mask mandate in North Carolina, yet when Harnett County resident Gregory Hahn reported to the courthouse in Lillington this week without a mask for jury duty and refused to wear one, he was sentenced to 24 hours in the county jail with no bail for contempt of court.

There are no signs saying masks are required in the courthouse. But a March 2022 joint order from Harnett and Lee County officials (the two counties that comprise this judicial district) grants individual judges or the Clerk of Superior Court or the District Attorney the right to require them in their courtrooms or personal offices. Just one Superior Court Judge, C. Winston Gilchrist, requires them in his courtroom. This requirement is not communicated to potential jurors ahead of time, though, according to Hahn, and nothing in the joint order says residents can be thrown in jail if they decline to wear one.

The Harnett County Clerk of Court, Renee Whittenton, said potential jurors were told of Gilchrist’s requirement upon check-in, and told WRAL-TV:

You can go into any District courtroom without a mask. You can come into the Clerk of Superior Court’s office without a mask. You can go to the District Attorney’s office without a mask.

After Hahn communicated his unwillingness to wear a mask to Whittenton, he was sent to Gilchrist’s courtroom. According to Hahn, Judge Gilchrist said, “I understand that you don’t want to wear a mask?” To which Hahn replied, “That’s correct, sir.” Gilchrist asked, “May I ask why?” Hahn replied, “There is no mask mandated in the courthouse, in the county, or in the state.” Gilchrist then asked:


“Let me ask you again. are you refusing to wear a mask in my courtroom?”

Hahn said:

“Yes, I am.”

Hahn was then sentenced to 24 hours in the Harnett County Jail, handcuffed, and taken to the jail. He informed the judge that he was a single father and asked to call his child, but says Gilchrist refused.

WRAL reports:

“I never thought this could happen in this country,” Hahn said.

Hahn said he asked the judge to excuse him since it was one day in jail.

Hahn told WRAL News that Gilchrist said, “I could, but I’m not going to.”

Hahn appeared on Tucker Carlson with additional detail:

As someone who previously worked as the official court reporter in this courthouse and lived in this county, I know that while it’s rural, it has limited judicial resources that were surely wasted by Gilchrist’s power trip. Harnett County, where many Special Forces soldiers stationed at Fort Bragg live, is full of potential jurors who would have no patience with Judge Gilchrist’s asinine order. As Hahn noted, Gilchrist was not wearing a mask while holding Hahn in contempt, and there was no mask mandate at the Harnett County Jail. So what, exactly, was the point of him holding Hahn in contempt of court and putting his child at risk?


There likely wasn’t one.

WRAL’s reporting below is extraordinarily impactful and not what we expect from “legacy” media sources.

NOTE: Prior to his appointment to the bench, Gilchrist worked as a criminal defense attorney. This writer served as the official court reporter for several of his cases.


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