Cache County Jail inmates in COVID-19 quarantine are experiencing difficulty moving their court cases forward.
On Monday, during 1st District Court hearings held via video conferencing, defense attorney Mike McGinnis told the court he had not been allowed to speak with two of his clients as a result of quarantine efforts at the jail. McGinnis told the court his quarantined clients are currently unable to have visitors or participate in video conferences or phone calls.
Cache County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Matt Bilodeau said the issue has since been resolved; attorneys have been contacted and will now be allowed to speak with their quarantined clients. Bilodeau said there was no intention of depriving anyone of their constitutional rights.
“It was a simple misunderstanding,” Bilodeau said. A new employee “thought quarantine meant nobody” was allowed to contact the inmates, he added.
In an interview with The Herald Journal, McGinnis said he had been in contact with the jail and was confident the issue would be resolved. If not, however, a writ of habeas corpus would be relevant under the circumstances.
Two of McGinnis’s clients had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and were scheduled to appear on Monday for hearings. Both men appeared in court via Webex video conferencing from sequestered cells wearing masks. One man was scheduled for a preliminary hearing to determine probable cause in his case, but considering the lack of meaningful contact with McGinnis, Judge Angela Fonnesbeck ordered the hearing be postponed and scheduled a status hearing for July.
“I’m at a little bit of a loss of what to do here,” Fonnesbeck told the court.
During Monday’s hearing, McGinnis told the court that jail procedures require two negative tests to exit quarantine, and one of his clients provided a negative test nearly a week ago. An affidavit filed with the court said the man had a high fever upon arrest on May 29; he has presumably been in quarantine for over three weeks.
Bilodeau said everybody is checked by medical staff upon entering the jail, and inmates are placed in an initial 72-hour observational hold before a decision is made on where to house them. Inmates who test positive for the virus are quarantined and housed in private cells, Bilodeau said.