Citing a blanket pardon from Gov. Ron DeSantis, prosecutors said Monday they would drop all charges against two Village residents arrested last year after they refused orders to wear facial coverings at a crowded community meeting.
Defense attorney Ben Kuehne, who represented Alex Serrano and Nina Wallin, said the action showed that Village officials never had any business charging the pair.
“The actions of the Village of Key Biscayne are totally unlawful and everybody should have known that. We are grateful this horrendous nightmare is over for now,” Kuehne said.
In a memo, Assistant State Attorneys Aaron Simkovitz and Andres Perez cited DeSantis’ June 2021 order granting “full pardons” to any person that has been —or could be— arrested for non-violent offenses “related to local government COVID-19 restrictions.”
Prosecutors had sought to distinguish the local mask policy from compliance with police orders, but in the memo, prosecutors wrote that based on the Governor’s order “the State does not have a good faith basis to proceed on the charges against Ms. Wallin and Mr. Serrano.”
Village Manager Steve Williamson declined comment, as did Police Chief Frank Sousa, who was not yet on the job at the time of the September arrest.
It’s not clear the dropping of the misdemeanor criminal charges will end the matter. Kuehne said he is not ruling out “other legal recourse for what the Village of Key Biscyane put them through.”
At a March hearing, County Judge Raul Cuervo said the case was one of the most unusual he had ever presided over, adding that because the case raised issues under Florida’s constitution, he might have to refer the case to Circuit court.
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.