Public Health

Judge requests reduced charge for man who slapped his hand over face mask order, DA says

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A Texas man who was shown on video in an altercation with a county judge and a hardware store employee over an order to wear a face mask saw his felony charge of assault on a public servant reduced Thursday.

It was reduced to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly contact for using profanity in a public place.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales confirmed to Courthouse News Service that Judge Nelson Wolff requested that his office reduce the charge against Terry Toller, 47, who was taken to the county jail and held for less than three hours after the incident Wednesday.

“At the request of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, that charge was rejected at magistration by the Bexar County district attorney’s office,” Gonzales said in a statement. “Wearing a face covering is a sign of respect to the people around you. While this issue has become divisive and political, it is my hope that everyone will follow the order voluntarily.”

Wolff said he requested the reduced charge because he “did not want this to be a distraction” from the goal of “requiring businesses to have customers wear masks” and to protect the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Courthouse News Service reports.

Security video camera footage that has now been shared on YouTube shows Toller checking out with a cashier at a Lowe’s hardware store. Toller allegedly became angry and verbally abusive when the cashier asked him to put on a face mask, a requirement in that county, according to Courthouse News Service.

Wolff, who was among the first local officials to order Texas businesses to require customers to wear face masks, happened to be standing behind Toller in line and attempted to hand him a business card. Toller is seen slapping Wolff’s hand before the video ends.

Wolff said afterward that he asked Toller to call his office to discuss the order, according to Courthouse News Service.

San Antonio, Texas, attorney Nico LaHood represents Toller and described the initial felony charge against his client as “overreaching from the beginning.” He also told Courthouse News Service that Toller maintains that he was not at fault in the incident.

“The video speaks for itself,” LaHood said. “There are other aspects that happened in the incident that people are not getting. This was taken way out of context. At the very least, it was mishandled very irresponsibly. At the worst, it was deceptive.”

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