Prosecutors dropped some charges against two Key Biscayne residents arrested after refusing to wear face masks at a packed community meeting, but it looks like a remaining trespassing charge will head to trial. The prosecution is continuing, even as the Village relaxed some of its official guidance regarding masks in government buildings.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Nina Wallin on charges of resisting arrest without violence and disorderly conduct, and also dropped a disorderly conduct charge against Alex Serrano. The charges had been filed by Key Biscayne officers following a September 2021 meeting at the community center where Wallin and Serrano were removed after refusing to wear masks. Serrano has often challenged the Village’s mask policy at public meetings.
Prosecutors said the facts did not warrant going forward with those two charges. But the third charge — misdemeanor trespass after warning — is going forward. An offer of pretrial diversion for Wallin was rejected, said Ed Griffith, a spokesman for the State Attorney Kathleen Fernandez-Rundle.
Pretrial diversion is routinely offered in non-violent, first-time offender cases. When a person completes a pretrial diversion, the charge is dropped.
“This case looks like it’s headed to trial,” Griffith said. “They gave this woman nine different warnings.”
Attorney Susan Dmitrovksy, who represents both defendants, said her clients are innocent and will be exonerated. She filed a motion to dismiss the case that will be heard Friday by Circuit Court Judge Raul Cuervo. “They did nothing wrong,” she said.
The Village of Key Biscayne quietly relaxed its own mask policy last month. A Feb. 15 memo from Human Resources Director Juan Gutierrez instructed employees “the Village of Key Biscayne will no longer require staff to use masks while in our offices and facilities.” The memo urged staff to follow safety protocols and reminded employees of free COVID-19 tests on the Village Green. Miami-Dade County ended its indoor mask rule Feb. 25.
The Mar. 7 County Coronavirus dashboard put the local positivity rate at 3%, down from double digits at the height of the Omicron variant wave.
Tony Winton is the editor-in-chief of the Key Biscayne Independent and president of Miami Fourth Estate, Inc. He worked previously at The Associated Press for three decades winning multiple Edward R. Murrow awards. He was president of the News Media Guild, a journalism union, for 10 years. Born in Chicago, he is a graduate of Columbia University. His interests are photography and technology, sailing, cooking, and science fiction.