CLEVELAND, Tenn., Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 — Forty protesters waving American flags and placards condemn an X-Ray clinic for having a mother of five arrested for insisting she can’t wear a chin diaper and for refusing to leave because of an appointment to check for suspected cancer.
Jessica Hedgcock is confined three hours at the Bradley County jail and hasn’t gotten clear of the building before protesters begin gathering at a doctor professional building in the Southeast Tennessee city of 46,000 just north of Chattanooga. In blasting Cleveland Imaging, near the city’s Tennova hospital, they rally at a major intersection for more than 90 minutes, with many children present hollering and flapping flags about.
A group of homeschooling moms had just finished a Bible study when they heard of Mrs. Hedgcock’s arrest. Gail Greene and others piled into vans and cars in a spontaneous plan to protest.
Bo Guffey, the operations manager at Cleveland Imaging, initiated the criminal proceedings by calling Cleveland city police. Mr. Guffey refused to answer a reporter’s questions by phone, and also at the door of the center as he sought to shoo away three protesting moms, one with a sign.
Mrs. Hedgcock is charged with criminal trespass and faces a Bradley County magistrate Monday morning at 8:30 at 2290 Blythe Ave. for a probable cause hearing. The family has no attorney. Mrs. Hedgcock plans to handle the matter herself after consulting with others over the weekend.
Freed despite refusal to sign any document
Sheriff Steve Lawson, exercising discretion as caretaker of the courts and the jail, ordered her released, Mrs. Hedgcock says, on her own recognizance without even so much as a signature.
Mrs. Hedgcock is persistent as regards her due process rights. “I refused to sign any documents, saying that I would appear in court. I refused to sign my fingerprints. I did nothing wrong. I am not a criminal. I went to go to get medical care.” She says she told the jailers that if she has to stay in jail all weekend to make her point, she would gladly do it. “I am defending my kids’ freedom, and that’s why I’m here,” she says she told the people at the jail.
“I hope not to go back, but if it takes me getting arrested at my next appointment, so that I can get my medical needs taken care of, it’s going to happen again, and it’s going to happen again. And I need you” — talking to an audience in a Facebook interview — “to do the same thing. I need everybody to take their mask off, and wake up. The tyranny stops now. It doesn’t stop tomorrow. We need everybody to wake up and realize that if you don’t pick your hill to die on, it will come to a point, or you will get to that point. Stop now. Don’t allow yourself to be abused any more, because it is a damage, and it is a harm.
“We are Americans. We are free. *** You have to defend your freedom,” Mrs. Hedgcock says.
At her magistrate hearing Monday, she says, “I need everybody there” before it starts. “I need you to rally, because they’re saying the court is not open for the public. Well, they’re doing this for Covid-19 — well, what is Covid-19? Have we established that that is an agent of contagion? Have we put that on our epidemiological list? I don’t think so. *** We will not stand for this tyranny.”
Her husband, Chad, says he thought it was “insane” that she might have been in the jail all weekend.
“She went to her appointment at imaging,” he says. “Then I get a phone call, and she’s in jail for not wearing a mask.” Mr. Hedgcock says he would like someone to explain criminal trespass to him.
‘We need more people to be brave’
“We need more people to be brave, and not complying,” Mrs. Hedgcock tells Cheryl Bothe of Polk County. “Peaceful disobedience is the way that you win. You don’t need to get violent. You just need to say “No. I will not comply. You have no authority over my person — none! My God has authority over me, not you.””
Mrs. Hedgcock on Monday will try to persuade the magistrate that hers is not a prima facie case of criminal trespass, in other words, a case on its face that presumes the crime occurred. Absent Mr. Guffey, she may be able to persuade the judge that no crime occurred in light of mitigating facts and concepts.
The criminal trespass law at Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-14-405 says a “person commits criminal trespass if the person enters or remains on property, or any portion of property, without the consent of the owner.” If an owner (or operations director) tells a person to leave a property, and the person refuses, that is an on-its-face case for criminal trespass.
In instances such as Mrs. Hedgcock’s the injured party is no longer Cleveland Imaging, but the state itself. It takes up the grievance and pretends it is the injured party. It prosecutes the case criminally and not civilly, under the higher standard of evidence and proof (beyond reasonable doubt vs. “preponderance of evidence).
Magistrate will decide if crime committed
Mrs. Hedgcock has mitigating defenses that are not in view in the law. The law itself is clear cut, with three defenses to the charge.
Consent may be inferred in the case of property that is used for commercial activity available to the general
(1) A person entered or remained on property that the person reasonably believed to be property for which the owner’s consent to enter had been granted;
(2) The person’s conduct did not substantially interfere with the owner’s use of the property; and
(3) The person immediately left the property upon request.
Her powers of persuasion may well come into play at the hearing to decide if a crime occurred. Her job will be to convince the judge that no criminal offense took place at Cleveland Imaging. No, there is no act that occurred that can be determined judicially to be a crime because:
➤ She cannot psychologically and medically wear a chin diaper
➤ She has a medical exemption on chin diapers
➤ She had an appointment and “reasonably believed’ she had a right to be there — for imaging for a possibly pressing medical problem
➤ Perhaps manager Guffey was not following real policy, but only a personal neurosis about CV-19, so perhaps he was not representing the corporate person of the clinic
➤ No evidence that Mrs. Hedgcock was a harm or threat to anyone, and thus no reason for her expulsion. Mrs. Hedgcock had asked the clinic to contact the health department regarding its response to her official inquiry about whether the department has any evidence, reports or information about her being a carrier of SARS-CoV-2 or Covid-19, with no reply indicating the Bradley department has no evidence that she is a carrier of anything.
[David Tulis is an investigative reporter at NoogaRadio 96.9 FM who blogs at TNtrafficticket.us. He is pursuing a petition for writ of mandamus to hold Gov. Bill Lee accountable to state law after he abrogated the Tennessee constitution with a March 12, 2020, declaration of emergency.]