Texas Man Plays the Ebola Card to Dodge Jail (It Didn't Play Well)

Robert Kirchener claimed he went on missionary trip to Sierra Leone right before he was picked up for public intoxication.
Robert Kirchener claimed he went on missionary trip to Sierra Leone right before he was picked up for public intoxication.
Victoria County Sheriff's Office

Nobody wants to go to jail, but some people are willing to go that extra mile to try and avoid being behind bars. And sometimes, every so often, there's an extra-special almost-brilliant type who comes up with a get-out-of-jail plan so brazen that all the rest of us can do is stand back in wonder. Robert Brandon Kirchner, of Victoria, is such a man.

Last Thursday, Kirchner, 29, was arrested by the Victoria Police Department for public intoxication. He was duly transported to the Victoria County Jail. That's where things got entertaining, because Kirchner took a rather interesting route to try and avoid jail, according to a Victoria County Sheriff's Office release.

Now, in case you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, people across the Lone Star State have been pretty freaked out since the nation's first Ebola patient arrived in Dallas in late September. We've heard about people dodging Texas weddings over Ebola fear. One family even forbade a relative from visiting after a trip to South Africa (keep in mind that this bout of Ebola has been confined to West Africa, which is a long way from the southern part of the continent.)

Over in Victoria, the Victoria County Sheriff's Office has changed its intake procedures. When booking someone, sheriffs now ask questions -- subtle stuff like, "Have you been to Africa and do you potentially have an incredibly infectious and dangerous disease?" -- meant to determine if you might possibly have Ebola. (Though if the Fox News pundits are right and Ebola is actually being brought in from Mexico, we detect a flaw in their questioning.)

When the folks at the sheriff's office got to Kirchner, he was ready for them, despite being intoxicated. (Or possibly because of it?) When Kirchner was being processed, he told sheriff's personnel that he had indeed been to a country known to be dealing with an Ebola crisis, according to the Victoria Advocate. Specifically, he told them he had just returned from Sierra Leone on a missionary trip. (Of the three countries that have primarily dealt with this mess, Sierra Leone has gotten the worst of it.) Then he told them that he did have reason to believe he might have been exposed to the disease. Oh, and actually, he wasn't feeling so hot. To the guy's credit, he did somehow manage to have a low-grade fever, according to the Advocate.

(Now, we have no way of knowing what was going through this dude's head at the time he started making these claims. We're hoping he was still drunk or stoned or whatever manner of public intoxication that led him to start down this road, because while this was an entertaining-for-us way to avoid jail, there were some holes in the plan.)

Anyway, with that little revelation, the sheriff's office swung into action and requested that the arresting officer get Kirchner out of there and to the hospital. We have to hand it to the local hospital, Citizens Medical Center. While Texas Health Presbyterian fumbled that first Ebola patient in Dallas every step of the way, Citizens was prepared. Kirchner and the arresting officer were placed in protective gear and in separate quarantines on arrival.

But at about the same time hospital officials were putting Kirchner into hazmat gear, officers were finding out from the Department of Homeland Security-U.S. Customs that not only had Kirchner not been to Sierra Leone, he hadn't left the borders of the United States at all, according to the Victoria Advocate.

Kirchner had said he was curious about how the local hospital would handle an Ebola threat, according to the release, and it turned out they handled it pretty well. However, if Kirchner was hoping to wave scary Ebola fingers to explain away his public intoxication and miss out on county jail entirely, he'd have done better Shawshank Redemption-ing it all the way.

Since he claimed he might have Ebola, freaked everyone out and then definitely didn't have it, Kirchner is still in jail on the original public intoxication charge and now he's been charged with filing a false alarm, a Class A misdemeanor, according to the court records.


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