A Mitchell man has pleaded not guilty to obstructing law enforcement after being removed from a Mitchell Board of Education meeting in September when he defied the school's mask policy.

Reed Bender, 39, pleaded not guilty via his attorney R. Shawn Tornow during magistrate court proceedings Thursday at the Davison County Public Safety Center. Bender was not present for the hearing, which was his initial appearance in court, and Tornow appeared by phone in front of Judge Donna Bucher.

Thursday's proceedings were brief. Bender's next court appearance is scheduled for March 8, when a jury trial is scheduled.

Bender faces a misdemeanor charge of obstructing law enforcement, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison and up to $2,000 in fines.

Bender turned himself in to law enforcement on Oct. 29 and was released on a personal recognizance bond. A grand jury indicted him on Oct. 9 for his actions in a Sept. 14 school board meeting in which Bender attended in opposition of the district's mask mandate. At the meeting, two Mitchell Police Division officers led him out of the meeting after a confrontation with Bender, but did not arrest him that night.

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Bender was not charged for refusing to wear a mask but for "using or threatening to use violence, force or physical interference or obstacle, intentionally obstruct, impair or hinder the enforcement of the criminal laws or the preservation of the peace by law enforcement officers," according to court documents.