When Steve Betts reopened his East Quincy Barber Company on April 27 amid the coronavirus state stay-at-home order, one of the first customers to get a haircut was Plumas County District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel, but that reopening turned out to be short lived. Betts was cited for violation of Government Code section 8665, which states that anyone who “refuses or willfully neglects” to obey a lawful order is guilty of a misdemeanor and could be fined up to $1,000, imprisoned for six months or both.
He closed up shop May 1, after the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology issued a statement warning businesses of disciplinary action against licenses if state orders were violated, and June 2 he had his day in court.
According to District Attorney David Hollister, roughly a couple dozen people, wearing face masks and taking designated seats, showed up to watch the proceedings Tuesday morning. Betts, who is represented by attorney Joseph Tully, entered a plea of not guilty and waived his right to a speedy trial. His next court date is scheduled for Thursday, July 30, at 9 a.m.
Betts has previously said that he “would push it to a trial,” confident that a jury of his peers would side with him. Supervisor Engel, when interviewed at the time of the citation agreed. “Where are you going to find 12 people to convict him for trying to make a living?” he asked.
Since the citation was issued, Plumas County has allowed barbershops and beauty salons to reopen with mitigation and safety measures in place. When Betts was called to discuss today’s proceedings, he was back open and busy giving a haircut.