The Winslow man handcuffed and placed in a patrol car in April after being accused of violating Gov. Doug Ducey’s COVID-19 executive order requiring “non-essential” businesses to close learned this week that the criminal charges have been dismissed in his case.
Daniel J. Mazon has sold jewelry and art items at his Authentic Indian Arts Store near Interstate 40 for nearly a decade. He was arrested inside his store April 11 despite bodycam footage showing Winslow police officers knew he was selling other items such as livestock feed, household products, dog food, and retail snack items.
On July 8, Navajo County Attorney Brad Carlyon requested dismissal of the case after Mazon provided receipts confirming that at the time of his arrest he had been selling hay, one of several items declared “essential” under one of the governor’s COVID-19 orders.
“While the sales of hay is an insignificant portion of the defendant’s business and appears to have been undertaken for the purposes of circumventing the closure of the defendant’s business, it is an activity that was defined as an essential activity under the Governor’s Executive Order,” Carlyon wrote in his motion.
Justice of the Peace Boyce J. Little signed the dismissal order the same day, and noted the dismissal is with prejudice. That means the charges cannot be refiled against Mazon, 70, who had faced up to six months in jail and a fine of $2,500 if convicted.
However, one of Mazon’s sons believes his father should not have been forced to provide receipts when the officer bodycam provided proof that the store was selling essential items such as the hay, dogfood, household items, and packaged food, in addition to regular art items and jewelry.
“We complied with the request for receipts even though I believe it is their responsibility to prove guilt, not ours to prove innocence,” Joshua Mason said. “Did they ask Walmart to prove essential? This is the true colors of corrupt government.”
State Representative Bob Thorpe (LD6) previously expressed similar dismay that a longtime small business owner like Mazon was prosecuted, let alone arrested, based on Ducey’s COVID-19 executive orders.
“I’ve been extremely disappointed with our Governor’s handling of these orders,” Rep. Bob Thorpe (LD6) told Arizona Daily Independent on Thursday. “If we develop policies that shut down our small businesses we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Thorpe is also concerned that Ducey continues to impose orders without meaningful input from Arizona’s 60 state representatives and 30 state senators.
“These orders directly impact people’s lives,” he said. “It’s artificially choosing winners and losers, and some of those losers are actually losing their businesses. There needs to be a wider range of discussion about what should be done. And that must involve the Governor talking with the 90 legislators.”
There is also a concern, Thorpe noted, that enforcement of restrictive orders such as the non-essential business prohibition imposed in the spring can be misused at a local level. And he wonders if that was the case in Winslow.
“I look at it as Mr. Mazon was trying to ensure he was legal and keep his business, his lifeblood, open,” Thorpe said. “It almost gives an impression that some other people became drunk with power or that there was perhaps a vendetta by officials against this one businessowner.”
Mazon’s arrest garnered national attention after bodycam footage of the 40-minute incident was released. It shows Mazon standing behind a display counter in his store the morning of April 11 as two Winslow officers walk in. The officers said they were there due to a determination that Authentic Indian Arts Store was remaining open in violation of the law.
In response, Mazon showed one of the officers a State of Arizona document in connection to his efforts to add items to the store’s inventory so that he would comply with the COVID-19 orders.
The bodycam then captured one officer having a telephone conversation with someone about the paperwork presented by Mazon. The other person apparently instructed the officer to make the arrest, and Mazon is handcuffed and taken outside where he was placed in the backseat of a patrol car.
Officers eventually released Mazon at the scene after issuing a citation which alleged he violated Arizona Revised Statute ARS 26-317. The statute reads in part that any person “who knowingly fails or refuses to obey any lawful order or regulation issued as provided in this chapter shall be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.”
That lawful order, according to city officials, was made by Winslow Mayor Thomas McCauley in March in keeping with Ducey’s executive order about non-essential retail operations. It was also McCauley who made the determination that his order wasn’t being complied with by Mazon.
Joshua Mazon pointed out that officers rushed to arrest his father on a Saturday morning instead of waiting to seek legal advice from the city attorney about the document presented by the senior Mazon.
“With a small business that was already suffering during this time, my father adjusted his business model within regulations and spent over $10,000 to offer essential items,” Joshua Mazon said. “Once we handed over the requested receipts the County Attorney Carylon continued his fight by saying we didn’t make a certain profit margin. Did they ask Walmart to prove essential?”
Daniel Mazon has until October 11 to file a notice of claim against the city if he intends to pursue civil action related to his arrest and prosecution. In the meantime, he will continue to have a public arrest record.