Kurt Hixenbaugh (left) and Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham | Credit: Courtesy

Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, a practicing attorney who represents northern Santa Barbara County in the California State Assembly, has agreed to represent Kurt Hixenbaugh, the owner of a Orcutt wine bar who is facing four criminal charges for refusing to close his bar during the winter COVID-19 shutdown. 

Like Hixenbaugh, Cunningham (R) has been openly critical of Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive orders related to pandemic closures and protections, calling them “nonsensical” and “a joke.” Cunningham’s office did not respond to requests for comment on Hixenbaugh’s case.

If convicted, 49-year-old Hixenbaugh ― a Santa Maria resident and former police sergeant for the City of San Luis Obispo ― could be ordered to pay up to $4,000 in fines ($1,000 for each misdemeanor count) and be sentenced to jail time. He is the first person in Santa Barbara County to be criminally charged with violating COVID-19 health orders since the start of the pandemic.

Hixenbaugh posted a YouTube on April 6 in which he said retaining the Cunningham Law Group to challenge his charges is “going to be a little spendy.” He asked for donations through a GoFundMe page, which has so far raised less than $9,000 of its $50,000 goal. “Help fight Sacramento and help fight this county,” he says in the video.

In previous YouTube videos, Hixenbaugh likens Sacramento’s coronavirus restrictions to a “book on the neck” that is “killing our businesses.” He falsely claimed, as do the organizers of his GoFundMe page, that there is “zero evidence” open bars and restaurants help spread the virus. Multiple studies have shown that they do. 

Hixenbaugh retired from the San Luis Obispo Police Department in 2018 after 16 years on the force. At the time, he was being paid $140,000 a year and collecting $56,000 in benefits. He now receives an annual pension of $66,000. 

He is scheduled to be arraigned April 29 in Santa Maria Superior Court.

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