Hamilton County judge orders man to get COVID-19 shot as condition of probation


CINCINNATI — Brandon Rutherford wore a face mask Wednesday as he stood in front of a Hamilton County judge to be sentenced for his recent drug conviction.

“I had the mask on because I heard the COVID numbers were back up,” Rutherford told the WCPO 9 I-Team.

Rutherford, 21, said Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Wagner asked him questions.

“He asked me, was I vaccined?” Rutherford said. “I told him no. And he asked me if I planned to get vaccined, and I told him no.”

Rutherford said that’s when Wagner ordered him to get a COVID-19 vaccine shot within two months as a condition of Rutherford’s community control, which is often called probation.

“I don’t plan on getting it. I don’t want it,” Rutherford said. “So, for him to tell me that I have to get it in order for me to not violate my probation is crazy because 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.”

Rutherford’s attorney, Carl Lewis, stood next to his client during sentencing.

“When you hear that, you’re like, ‘Whoa, I don’t think the judges are within their powers to do that,’” Lewis said.

Lewis told the I-Team this is the first time he’s heard of a Hamilton County judge ordering someone to get the COVID vaccine.

On Rutherford’s court papers, there’s a question mark next to the judge’s requirement for Rutherford to get vaccinated.

“If he truly believes that he’s within authority to order the individual to get a vaccine, then we’ll have a legal issue to address,” Lewis said.

The I-Team sent the judge’s staff an email and left two phone messages requesting comment on the court order, but they did not respond.

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