Iowa Man Is Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison After Mask Fight

A 42-year-old Des Moines man was convicted of assault over a fight with a man who confronted him over the way he was wearing a mask.

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An Iowa man convicted of assaulting and spitting on another man in a fight over how he was wearing his mask has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, the latest decision as the authorities weigh the cases of people involved in mask disputes over the last year.

The fight took place after a confrontation at a Vision 4 Less store in Des Moines in November, according to court documents. The man who was convicted, Shane Wayne Michael, 42, of Des Moines, was approached by another customer, Mark Dinning, and asked to put his mask above his nose. The exchange led to a fight in the parking lot between Mr. Michael and Mr. Dinning.

Mr. Michael was arrested and charged with willful injury, a felony. A lawyer for Mr. Michael did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. According to court records, Mr. Michael’s lawyer moved to file for an appeal.

Police and court documents outlined each man’s version of the fight, according to The Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Mr. Dinning told the authorities that Mr. Michael had followed him outside the store and began assaulting him, jabbing him in the eye and repeatedly kneeing him in the groin. At one point, Mr. Dinning said, Mr. Michael spat on him, coughed on him and yelled, “If I have it, you have it!”

According to Mr. Michael, Mr. Dinning started the fight after the two left the store when he shoulder-checked him and poked him in the abdomen. In this account, the two men eventually fell to the ground, and while Mr. Michael was pinning Mr. Dinning, he bit Mr. Michael’s arm.

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Shane Wayne Michael was sentenced to 10 years in prison after assaulting and spitting on another man in a fight over how he wore his face covering. The man said Mr. Michael coughed and spat on him and yelled, “If I have it, you have it!”Credit…Polk County Sheriff’s Office

Court documents show that witnesses identified Mr. Michael as the aggressor in the case. He was convicted by a Polk County District Court jury of assault causing bodily injury.

After a summer of lax restrictions, Iowa experienced a spike of coronavirus cases in the fall — by November, more than 4,100 people were testing positive in Iowa every day on average. Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, extended a state emergency order that required that masks be worn by customers and employees as a way to curb the spread of the virus.

The prosecutor in Mr. Michael’s case, Assistant Attorney General Kevin Cmelik, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday. The 10-year sentence, handed down June 9, appears to be one of the longest handed down to someone involved in an altercation over masks.

Fights over mask wearing have been breaking out at least since last summer, as mask mandates and lockdown orders became political issues in many states. Retail workers have had to break up fistfights and undergo special training to deal with patrons not wearing masks. Transit workers have been attacked for trying to enforce rules. And reports of unruly passengers on airlines have increased significantly, mostly with episodes related to masks.

The Federal Aviation Administration imposed a zero-tolerance policy this year for interfering with or assaulting flight attendants, and dozens of people now face fines of up to $35,000 and possible jail time. Airline companies have also moved to bar people from their flights.

In some cases, criminal charges have followed. Last fall a New York man was charged with criminally negligent homicide in the death of an 80-year-old man who died several days after a confrontation over a mask at a bar near Buffalo.

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