On September 23rd, 2020, Moscow police arrested several people at a Psalm Sing outside of Moscow City Hall for violating the city's public health order. That order is intended to slow the spread of Covid-19.
"All of them were involved in that same activity," City of Moscow City Supervisor Gary Riedner said.
Now on January 8th, 2021, the City of Moscow has asked the court to drop the charges.
"All five defendants were charged with violations of the amended Public Health Order 20-03, and a couple of them were also charged with resisting and obstructing," Riedner said.
The reason is this: In the Moscow City Code, Title 1 Chapter 11 grants the mayor the ability to issue a public health order.
Also included is an exclusion to public health orders for all expressive and associative activity protected by the United States and Idaho constitution unless otherwise specified.
The Psalm Sing falls under this exemption, and the public health order does not address the exemption.
"That language was omitted, and when it was omitted, then any of those activities could arguably exempt you out of the order, so, because of that, the City Attorney's office made the decision to go ahead and dismiss those charges," Riedner said.
To try to clear up all confusion, an amended City Code will be brought to the administrative committee of the city council next Monday. If approved there, it will be placed on the city council agenda on January 19th.
"The public health emergency order that is in place now is still valid. The only potential exemptions would be those expressive and associative activities called out in Moscow City Code,” Riedner said.
Governor Brad Little's stage two physical distancing order is also still in effect.
Riedner said this was entirely an error made in the fashioning of the public health order.
"The enforcement of that order was entirely valid. The officers did their job the way they were intended to do rightfully enforcing the law, and we just hope to do a better job going forward in the drafting of these documents," he said.