On Wednesday, an Ohio judge ordered a man to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of his probation.
During the sentencing hearing for 21-year-old Brandon Rutherford, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Wagner ordered Rutherford to provide proof of getting the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of his Community Control following his recent drug conviction.
According to Cincinnati-based station WCPO, Rutherford appeared at his hearing wearing a face mask due to the COVID-19 numbers climbing. Wagner then asked him if he was vaccinated and planned on getting vaccinated. Rutherford answered no to both questions.
As a result, Wagner ordered Rutherford to get vaccinated as part of his probation. He has 60 days to get the vaccine.
“I don’t plan on getting it. I don’t want it. So, for him to tell me that I have to get it in order for me to not violate my probation is crazy cause I’m just trying to do what I can to get off this as quickly as possible, like finding a job and everything else. But, that little thing can set me back,” Rutherford told WCPO.
In a transcript of the hearing, WCPO reported that Wagner said “I’m just a judge, not a doctor, but I think the vaccine’s a lot safer than fentanyl, which is what you had in your pocket.”
In a statement emailed to WCPO, Wagner defended ordering Rutherford to obtain the vaccine.
“The court's responsibility when issuing a community control sanction is to rehabilitate the defendant and protect the community,” Wagner said in the statement. "Judges make decisions regularly regarding a defendant's physical and mental health, such as ordering drug, alcohol, and mental health treatment."
According to the transcript, Wagner reportedly threatened to send Rutherford to state prison for up to 18 months if he violated the conditions of his probation. In an interview with WCPO, Rutherford aired his disagreement with the judge’s decision.
“Because I won’t take a shot, they can send me to jail,” Rutherford said in the interview. “I don’t agree with it.”