HONOLULU — The Hawaii attorney general's office denies threatening a Republican state House of Representatives candidate with arrest for violating a traveler quarantine mandated to protect the islands from the spread of the coronavirus.
Lori Ford was in California visiting family when Hawaii's 14-day quarantine on arriving travelers went into effect in March. She returned in May to file candidacy papers and then returned to California.
Agents from the Hawaii attorney general's office contacted her and told her she would be arrested for violating the quarantine, Ford and her lawyer Bilal Essayli said. Because of that threat, she remains in California.
"Our office has communicated with Ms. Ford's attorney, and we informed him that if Ms. Ford were charged, we would contact him so he could assist her in receiving the Complaint and a penal summons to appear in court," Krishna Jayaram, spokesperson for the attorney general's office said in a statement. "These communications did not contemplate or threaten Ms. Ford with arrest should she return to Hawaii."
Authorities have routinely arrested tourists and returning residents for violating the quarantine.
Essayli said Wednesday the attorney general's statement differs from previous interactions with the office. "The Special Agent I spoke with was very clear about his request. He wanted Ms. Ford to return to Hawaii for the specific purpose of being arrested and booked in jail," Eassayli said in an email. "If the Attorney General's office is now assuring Ms. Ford that she will not be arrested for this alleged offense then that is welcomed news for us."
Ford said she didn't attempt to seek an exemption to the quarantine so that she could file her candidacy papers in person. The quarantine mandate as applied to Ford is unconstitutional, her lawyer said.