LOGAN — The Marietta woman whose tasering and arrest at a Logan-Hocking middle school football game triggered a big public reaction, including national news coverage, is due to have her day in court next week.
The jury trial of Alecia D. Kitts on charges of resisting arrest and criminal trespass is scheduled for Friday morning, Jan. 29 in Hocking County Municipal Court.
Kitts, 34, was arrested Sept. 23 after she refused a request by a school district officer to put on a face mask, per district policy to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at sporting events, and then refused a directive from the officer telling her she would have to leave the premises. Kitts has reportedly said she did not want to wear a mask because she suffers from asthma.
When Chris Smith, a Logan Police officer serving as the school district’s resource officer, began trying to physically move Kitts out of her seat, she resisted, with her mother, who was sitting with her, at one point attempting to physically intervene. After struggling with Kitts and attempting to handcuff her, Smith ended up drive-stunning Kitts in the shoulder with his taser. He then cuffed her hands behind her back and walked her out, with Kitts trying to pull away from him, and complaining loudly to the crowd.
The school district has emphasized in public statements that Kitts was arrested not for failing to wear a mask, but for violating district policy and refusing to leave when asked, then resisting her arrest for criminal trespassing.
Videos of the arrest incident went viral on social media, and by early the next morning people from as far away as California were inundating the Logan Police Department with hundreds of phone calls, mostly hostile and even threatening to Smith – and some including racial slurs (Smith is Black). In response to critical calls coming into Logan-Hocking School District, the district put its schools on lockdown temporarily.
Skyler Steward, a Marietta man who shares a son with Kitts, fueled the controversy further when he posted a video of his visit to the Logan Police to file a citizen complaint about the arrest, and also disseminated the phone number of the department. Steward told The Marietta Times that he didn’t blame Logan Police for the stadium incident, but instead placed the blame “on Gov. DeWine’s shoulders,” for having mandated mask wearing at athletic events.
As The Washington Post reported Sept 28, the case quickly turned into “the latest flash point in the battle over mask mandates,” with critics of mandatory masking, including politicians, weighing in on it. The paper quoted Ohio state Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, for example, who complained on Facebook, “I live in a society where men tase women in the back for not wearing a mask. And other men sit by doing NOTHING! I am ashamed that we treat people, especially women this way.”
Those with a countering viewpoint were not silent, however, and backing for Smith was also in evidence, including a rally outside the Logan Police Department in which more than 30 people showed up and held signs expressing their support for the officer. A supportive Facebook page quickly attracted thousands of members.
In the upcoming trial, it appears that Kitts probably intends to defend her case on larger legal issues than are usually associated with misdemeanor trespassing and resisting arrest charges.
Her attorney is Maurice A. Thompson of the 1851 Constitutional Law Center in Columbus, which describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan law firm dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government,” which “litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, taxpayer and entrepreneur rights, regulation, parental rights, and search and seizure.”
The Logan Daily News has been unable to reach Thompson for comment. In an appearance on The Mark Blazor Show podcast two days after Kitts’ arrest, Thompson suggested that Smith had no right to arrest Kitts on the basis of a school policy that was not based on statutory law. While some have argued that the school district has the right to eject those who won’t comply with its mask policy while they’re on school property – on the analogy of a business refusing service to a customer not wearing a shirt or shoes – Thompson maintained that this is an incorrect comparison.
In the case of a private school, Thompson said, the 1851 Center would not object to its enforcing its own policies on visitors to its property – “We’d have nothing to say about that.” However, he argued, “When it comes to public property like school districts, it’s got to be governed by law.” So the charges against Kitts, he predicted, are “not going to stick.”
Following Kitts’ arrest and the resulting public outcry, the school district made changes to its masking policy for spectators at sporting events, mandating masks for all spectators, workers, athletes, students and coaches at all times unless a student or athlete is engaged in a contest or activity. For those with health conditions that indicate they should not wear a mask, it requires a face shield instead, with “no exception.”
Presiding over Kitts’ trial will be a visiting judge, retired Franklin County Judge Michael Brandt, who was assigned to the case after Hocking County Municipal Judge Fred Moses recused himself. Without going into details on his decision, Moses has told The Logan Daily News that he feels a local judge should not hear the case because it deals with an issue of intense local interest.