WESTMINSTER, Calif. — In a Southern California case that garnered attention during an anti-mask protest, Marianne Campbell Smith, 57, has been found guilty of trespassing and obstructing a business or customers. The incident occurred on August 15, 2020, at a Mother’s Market in Costa Mesa, where an anti-mask demonstration was taking place nearby.
The jury delivered the verdict on Wednesday, leading Orange County Superior Court Judge John Zitny to sentence Smith to 40 hours of community service, a year of informal probation, and a $200 fine.
The trial focused on property rights, according to Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. He emphasized that the case was about a private business and its employees trying to adhere to health orders. Instead, Smith allegedly engaged in disruptive behavior within the store, berating masked elderly shoppers and accusing them of being part of a government conspiracy.
Smith maintained that she could not wear a mask due to a medical condition, and her lawyer asserted that she entered the store to purchase food, not to participate in a protest.
While expressing disappointment with the outcome, Smith acknowledged the importance of discussing such issues. The case is one of the few instances in Orange County where arrests or charges related to mask requirements have been pursued. Authorities in the region have primarily focused on educating the public about coronavirus restrictions.
Another woman who was arrested with Smith previously accepted a plea deal, which involved a donation to a coronavirus relief fund, and admitted to an infraction for refusing to leave the store when requested by a police officer on behalf of the store’s owner. A third woman who accompanied them reportedly left before the police arrived.
Smith’s defense attorney, Frederick Fascenelli, questioned the decision not to charge her with violating the mask requirements specified in Costa Mesa’s municipal code. He suggested that political considerations played a role in pursuing trespassing charges rather than directly addressing the mask mandate issue.
The case reflects the ongoing debate surrounding property rights and individual freedoms in the context of public health measures during the pandemic.