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Jab or JAIL: Ohio judge tells man convicted of fentanyl possession to get vaccinated or be sent to prison

Jab or JAIL: Ohio judge tells man convicted of fentanyl possession to get vaccinated or be sent to prison
A Cincinnati, Ohio man who pleaded guilty to possession of the drug fentanyl is challenging the decision by a county judge to condition his probation on getting a Covid-19 vaccine, saying he doesn’t want or need it.

Brandon Rutherford, 21, was given a suspended sentence – known as Community Control – last week, for possession of the deadly drug. He was shocked, however, when Hamilton County Judge Christopher Wagner gave him 60 days to get vaccinated or be sent to prison for 18 months.

Rutherford’s lawyer told multiple media outlets on Monday that he intends to challenge the order, but wants to wait and see if Judge Wagner “violates” his client once the deadline is up.

According to the transcript of the hearing provided to Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV, Wagner had asked Rutherford why he was wearing a mask inside the courtroom, only to be told that the defendant had not been vaccinated. It was at this point that the judge decided to require the jab as a condition of the probation.

“I'm just a judge, not a doctor, but I think the vaccine's a lot safer than fentanyl, which is what you had in your pocket,” Wagner told Rutherford. “You're going to maintain employment. You're not going to be around a firearm. I'm going to order you, within the next two months, to get a vaccine and show that to the probation office. Okay?”

Rutherford was not on board, however, telling WCPO that it was “unfair” of the judge to force him to get the vaccine he doesn’t want, or believe he needs.

“Because I don't take a shot they can send me to jail? I don't agree with that,” Rutherford told WCPO last Thursday. “I'm just trying to do what I can to get off this as quickly as possible, like finding a job and everything else. But that little thing can set me back,” he added, referring to the vaccine order.

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In a statement emailed to the TV station, Judge Wagner said the vaccination order is within the court’s responsibility “to rehabilitate the defendant and protect the community,” adding that judges “regularly” order defendants to undergo drug, alcohol or mental health treatment.

According to local media, Wagner is not the only judge in Ohio to demand vaccination as a condition of probation. A judge in Franklin County started doing so two months ago, while two Cuyahoga County judges have been offering defendants reduced probation sentences if they got vaccinated.

Meanwhile, judges across the US have ruled in favor of letting private businesses and even public universities impose vaccine mandates on their employees and students. On Monday, the Department of Defense announced it would mandate vaccines to members of the US military by mid-September, or sooner if the jabs, currently cleared only for emergency use, receive full FDA approval.

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