Tampa pastor who led packed services during safer-at-home will not face charges

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – A Tampa pastor who hosted services during the state’s safer-at-home will not face charges.

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement:

“Hillsborough County’s emergency order treats violations of social distancing as a problem to solve, much more than a person to punish. Pastor Howard-Browne’s arrest accomplished the safer-at-home order’s goal, which is compliance with the law,”

State Attorney Andrew Warren

Since the arrest, Pastor Howard-Browne has maintained responsible social distancing on his church campus while engaging with community leaders in a dialogue about the best path forward for his congregation. 

“The State Attorney’s Office has recognized that compliance and not criminal punishment is the focus of our emergency health laws,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “Law enforcement’s intervention through arrest has been rare during this health crisis, and while it remains a necessary tool to protect the health and safety of our community, we agree that further criminal sanctions are not necessary in this instance,” Sheriff Chronister added.

The pastor was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules. Both charges are second-degree misdemeanors.

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