RALEIGH — A Navy veteran who showed up to the Harnett County Courthouse in Lillington to do his civic duty found himself being booked and jailed not long after.
Gregory Hahn was jailed for 24 hours without bond by Superior Court Judge Charles Gilchrist for refusing to wear a mask during jury duty.
Hahn was among 98 other jury candidates attending an orientation and Hahn has said very few were wearing masks. He also said none of the potential jurors were notified of Gilchrist’s courtroom mask edict.
“The irony of all this is the judge was talking to me without a mask,” Hahn said in an interview with Raleigh television station WRAL.
North Carolina has no state mask mandate in place, including the Harnett County Courthouse where Hahn was called to serve jury duty. The only courtroom apparently requiring masks is Gilchrist’s, and he has the power to do so based on a March 2022 joint order in Lee and Harnett counties. That order states, in part, that a “presiding judge in each courtroom may decide, in their discretion, whether masks are required in the courtroom.”
“I never thought I would show up to jury duty and end up behind bars,” Hahn said in an interview on FOX News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
When Hahn asked to be excused instead of jailed because it was still just orientation and no jury members had been selected, Gilchrist told him “I could, but I’m not going to.”
Hahn said he was then restrained, a mugshot photo was taken, and he had to don an orange jumpsuit. The jail he was placed in also had no mask mandate, according to Hahn.
To make matters worse, Gilchrist denied Hahn, a single father, the ability to contact his son.
“It was the worst 24 hours of my life,” the 47-year-old Hahn told Carlson. “I was refused to make a phone call to my minor child who is home.”
“Judge Gilchrist’s ruling is outrageous,” said U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08) in a statement. “Even if you agree with the Judge’s perspective on masks, Hahn should have never been arrested. There are other ways it could have been handled.”
Former Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue first appointed Gilchrist to the 11th Judicial District bench in 2010. He ran for reelection for the District 11A seat on the North Carolina 3rd Superior Court and in the 2020 general election. Gilchrist’s current term ends on Dec. 31, 2028.