Anti-mask protester ordered to stand trial for alleged aggravated assault after child and father testify

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Justin Spiehs, left, looks at his attorney, Matthew Donnelly, on Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Douglas County District Court during Spiehs' preliminary hearing on charges of aggravated assault.

Updated at 7:35 p.m. Thursday

A Lawrence man known for protesting masks at area schools and clinics was ordered Thursday to stand trial on charges of aggravated assault after a 9-year-old boy said the man shouted at him and his father and threatened them with a stick.

Justin Paul Spiehs, 40, had been charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of interference with a law enforcement officer, all felony charges. He appeared in court before Judge Sally Pokorny on Thursday, where she determined there was enough evidence to bind Spiehs over for trial. Prosecutor Nicholas Vrana moved to dismiss the interference with a law enforcement officer charge.

As previously reported by the Journal-World, Spiehs is accused of breaking a stick off his protest sign and waving it at the boy and his father as they were trying to enter a vaccine clinic at West Middle School, 2700 Harvard Road, in November 2021. On Thursday, the court heard the boy and his father give their account of the incident.

They said they were walking along the sidewalk when Spiehs called out to the father and said he looked like a woman.

“He called my dad a woman to insult him, I think,” the boy said.

After that, the father said, Spiehs began yelling profanities at them. He said Spiehs “took his sign and ripped the sign off the stick and said ‘you wanna go?’ and started stepping toward us.”

The boy testified that he was scared that Spiehs would hurt them.

“I thought he would come down to hit us,” the boy said.

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

Justin Spiehs is shown at his preliminary hearing for aggravated assault charges on Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Douglas County District Court.

A 911 call and a police body camera video of the incident were also played in court on Thursday. In the 911 call, the father could be heard telling dispatchers about a man waving a stick around and threatening people, and a man could be heard shouting expletives in the background of the call.

In the video, the father could be seen talking with police while Spiehs was in the background pacing frantically up and down the sidewalk. “False,” Spiehs could be heard yelling after each statement the man made to police.

“When I watched it (the video), my heart rate went up significantly,” Pokorny said.

Spiehs, who has frequently criticized efforts by local leaders to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and has filed to run for the Douglas County Commission, was silent throughout Thursday’s hearing.

As the Journal-World previously reported, Spiehs was arrested again on Wednesday night on suspicion of disorderly conduct in an unrelated incident. That arrest occurred after he showed up for the Douglas County Commission’s weekly meeting with a sign that advertised his candidacy for County Commission that said “(expletive) these liberal (expletive).”

Sheriff’s deputies took Spiehs into custody outside of that meeting in the rotunda of the Douglas County Courthouse. He was booked into the Douglas County Jail around 5:30 p.m. and was released on a $300 bond around 7 p.m., according to the jail booking log. Charges had not been filed for that incident at the time of this report.

Spiehs’ trial has been set for Sept. 12 in the aggravated assault case.

photo by: Austin Hornbostel

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office deputies handcuff frequent anti-mask protester Justin Spiehs on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, at the Douglas County Courthouse.


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