Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said on Wednesday that he would pardon “any Floridian” who violated mask or social distancing mandates.
Mr. DeSantis, a Republican, made the announcement during an appearance on the Fox News program “Ingraham Angle.” After the show’s host, Laura Ingraham, interviewed the owners of a Broward County gym who said they had been arrested for violating a county mask mandate, Mr. DeSantis said their case was “a total overreach.”
He said he would issue a reprieve to delay the case and that when the state’s clemency board meets in the coming weeks, he would issue pardons not only for the business owners, Mike and Jillian Carnevale, but also for “any Floridian that may have outstanding infractions for things like masks or social distancing.”
“I think they’ve been treated poorly,” he said. “Fortunately, they got a governor that cares.”
Widely seen as positioning himself as a 2024 Republican presidential nominee, Mr. DeSantis throughout the pandemic has criticized coronavirus restrictions and mandates.
In his appearance on Fox News on Wednesday evening, Mr. DeSantis said that restrictions like mask mandates should be advisories and “not be punitive.” On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that Americans who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus could stop wearing masks or social distancing in most indoor and outdoor settings.
Mr. Carnevale said he and Ms. Carnevale were arrested three times after violating Broward County’s mask mandate. Mr. Carnevale was charged with two second-degree misdemeanors and if convicted would face a 120-day jail sentence, and Ms. Carnevale was charged with one second-degree misdemeanor, facing 60 days in jail, said Cory Strolla, a lawyer representing the couple.
The Broward County State Attorney’s Office had separately offered that the couple participate in a misdemeanor diversion program, which would dismiss their case after they completed the program, a spokeswoman for the state attorney’s office, Paula McMahon, said.
Harold F. Pryor, the Broward County state attorney, said in a statement, “The cases are pending and we will continue to follow the law unless and until the governor takes official action.”
Last month, Mr. DeSantis issued an executive order prohibiting businesses from requiring patrons or customers to show vaccination documentation, or risk losing grants or contracts funded by the state. Norwegian Cruise Line, which is requiring all guests and crew members to be vaccinated, said it was considering skipping Florida ports over the order.
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