COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — A Franklin County judge admits to WSYX that he’s mandating COVID-19 vaccinations as conditions of probation in his courtroom. Now, some offenders affected are speaking out to say it’s not right.
“The whole atmosphere of the courtroom changed,” said criminal offender Sylvaun Latham who was sentenced for a gun and drug charge last week before Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye. “Everyone had this look on their face. I broke character and asked (my attorney), ‘Can he do this?’”
Out of 20 sentencings Judge Frye conducted last week, three included requirements to get the vaccination within 30 days and provide proof to the probation department.
Judge Frye told WSYX that none of the offenders had a religious or medical objection to the unprecedented court-ordered terms.
“I know Judge Frye’s reputation,” said Latham. “I know he’s known for giving the max time. I don’t want to go to jail. I also don’t want to have five years probation.”
Latham told WSYX that his attorney struck a deal with prosecutors which was three years probation.
However, when he stood before the judge at sentencing, terms had changed. He said Judge Frye told him he could choose between five years probation or just one year on the condition that he receives the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m shaking at this point. I don’t like where this is going,” said Latham who decided on the terms of the vaccine in the moment. “I feel like it is an overstep especially when he asked me if I’d get it and I said I really don’t want to get it,” said Latham.
So far, Latham has not received the vaccine and plans to contact the ACLU. Judge Frye told WSYX that he does not know yet what he will do if any of the offenders ordered to take the vaccine refuse.
“That’s not like picking up trash,” said Latham. “I know I’m in your courtroom and you have the absolute say-so over things but I feel like, that’s my health.”
Neither the Ohio Attorney General or the Franklin County Prosecutor wanted to comment on the matter.