Assemblyman defending former SLO officer charged with violating COVID-19 rules

April 7, 2021

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham

BY JOSH FRIEDMAN

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against a former San Luis Obispo police sergeant for allegedly violating coronavirus health orders, setting up a possible court battle between prosecutors and a sitting California assemblyman.

Prosecutors charged Kurt Hixenbaugh, the co-owner of a wine bar in Orcutt, with four misdemeanors. The charges include two counts of failing to obey a stay-at-home order and two counts of failing to file a public health report.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), who is a practicing attorney, has agreed to defend Hixenbaugh in court. Both Hixenbaugh and Cunningham have been outspoken critics of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus orders.

Kurt Hixenbaugh

Hixenbaugh, who served on the San Luis Obispo force for more than a decade and as recently as 2018, co-owns and operates Vino et Amicis in Old Town Orcutt. During the recent statewide stay-at-home order issued by Newsom, Hixenbaugh refused to shut down Vino et Amicis.

If convicted of the misdemeanors, Hixenbaugh would face up to six months in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine for each of the charges.

Beginning late last year, Hixenbaugh posted multiple videos on YouTube announcing his wine bar was defying Gov. Gavin Newsom’s shutdown order and encouraging other businesses to do the same.

Hixenbaugh took issue with Newsom including San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties in the Southern California region. He also argued that businesses following coronavirus reopening protocols, like operating at partial capacity and requiring masks and social distancing, was enough and that there was not justification for shutting down bars and restaurants.

In a video posted on Feb. 10, Hixenbaugh announced he was changing the name of a beer served at Vino et Amicis from “F-Covid” to “Defiance.”

“Come on down and have a glass of defiance. Freedom’s delicious,” Hixenbaugh said in the video. “That’s what I want to encourage all of my fellow business owners to do out there. There’s freedom in defiance. Now I’m not suggesting that we go out and break all the laws and just let everybody in and have a wild, good old time. Be smart. Be safe. Follow all of the laws we followed before in the past. But the boot that’s on our throat from Sacramento is killing our businesses, and we need to stand up to that. We need to unite and stand up against that.”

Santa Barbara County prosecutors filed the criminal complaint against Hixenbaugh after the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) conducted an investigation into the wine bar. ABC could also decide to revoke the business’s alcohol license.

Hixenbaugh is the first person to face criminal charges in Santa Barbara County for violating coronavirus orders. Santa Barbara County authorities had previously filed several civil cases against gyms that refused to close when ordered to do so.

A GoFundMe titled Vino Et Amicis Legal Defense Fund has already raised more than $2,230.

In a Facebook post sharing the GoFundMe, the wine bar stated, “We are not going to roll over and let Sacramento and our county bully us into submission. We are going to lead the way. We are going to fight. We are going to prevail. Help us fight for freedom.”

Hixenbaugh is scheduled to appear in Santa Maria Superior Court on April 29 for an arraignment hearing.


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805thirdeye

As of today 06-15-2021:

Looks like the judge has already been changed to Kay Kuns from previously assigned judge and arraignment cont’d to this morning. What was the outcome?


Looks like Mr. Jordan Cunningham should have appeared IN Superior court in Santa Maria, today, 06-15-2021, so hopefully his timecard reflects that regarding legislative business today!!! Hope you didn’t miss anything important for your constituents!


Looks like Cunninghams’ client Kurt Alan Hixenbaugh has had trouble following laws based on other previous cases just in the Santa Maria Superior Court. As a retired former law enforcement person.


Mickie

ExCop decides what laws to obey or not?


Why not discard seatbelts as they restrict your freedom of movement? Or say I’m not wearing a helmet when driving/riding a bike?


Cunningham will not have my vote again.


coyote

Not a law.


Adam Trask

I know that among many of Cunningham’s voters are moderate Democrats like myself. Unfortunately, I am totally disappointed in his actions regarding this matter. I would not vote for him again.


localman

Somebody needs to help me understand when defiance is the good kind and when it is the bad kind. I was led to believe that defying the laws is bad and you should always listen to the police and follow the law because that’s just law and order. But maybe white ex-cop defiance is good? And brown college student defiance is bad? Can I do a defiance?


FoxtrotYankee

Here’s how to figure it out. If you’re from the side with the thin blue line, the laws are “for thee, not we.”


south

It’s very easy actually Localman. A law is something passed by an elected legislative body after much discourse and public review. An order, such as a Governer’s order, is enacted without discourse, public input or review. It is not a law, it is an order. A soldier has the right and duty to disobey an unlawful order, but not a military rule (or law). It is this individual’s opinion that the governor’s order is unlawful. It is Mr. Cunningham’s argument as well (I would guess).


So Localman, obey laws and rules but question individual orders. It really is the American Way.


localman

Interesting. I wonder if police officers ever make unlawful orders. Maybe even orders that contradict the law? Have we heard about that at all recently? I’d assume they’re supportive of the philosophy to “question individual orders”, then. Oh well, probably not important.


south

Every day and all the time. Such as, “Show me proof of insurance.” Or “open the trunk”. Or “Step out of the car.” Remarkably, these are all requests, but typically are perceived as an order. None of them are codified in law, but typically an order under color of authority, usually under the officer safety doctrine.


Chill

This guy is not a team player…


tidepool

Jordan Cunningham is a great man. I would want him leading my defense team for such capricious charges.


commonsenseguy

Good for Jordan. I think he has the right to defend anyone who needs an attorney.


mkaney

You know I’m all for civil disobedience but when you’re an EX COP who is still pulling in $70k a year on retirement. STFU and follow the law, because you made a CAREER out of punishing people for not doing it.


Taxpayers paid him heavily before retirement to pay for that wine bar too


https://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?q=kurt+hixenbaugh


805code4

A governor’s order hardly suffices for law, and there is a huge difference between Civil disobedience and the laws he enforced as an officer. The comparison is ludicrous.


coyote

Police officers don’t punish people for violations of the law. They just enforce the laws that the citizens enact through their chosen legislators


debeddarn

Who do we send money to help with the lawsuit?

Sue for a lot and pay back to those who donate a percentage when you win.

I’m in!