The man who briefly ran Underground Pizza Network in Seal Rock — allegedly without a restaurant license from the health department — was arrested for contempt during a Monday hearing to reschedule his trial.
Kurt Raymond Lent, 55, of Newport, is charged with a Class C misdemeanor for allegedly operating his pizza parlor without a license from the Oregon Health Authority.
He acquired an existing pizza place in Seal Rock earlier this year, changed the name to Underground Pizza Network, posted signs threatening to sue and prosecute health officials enforcing “unconstitutional mandates,” and allegedly refused to submit to inspections needed to obtain the legally required state license through Lincoln County Environmental Health.
At Lent’s first hearing in April, the judge made not operating the business without a license a condition of his continued release. He has since advertised the pizza restaurant and equipment for sale on Facebook for $50,000.
Lent’s trial scheduled for Sept. 2 was canceled days prior when his appointed attorney, Matthew Martin, the second lawyer appointed to represent Lent in the matter, filed a motion to withdraw. Monday’s hearing was a simple proceeding to set a new date for trial with another appointed lawyer, Bruce McCrum, but like during all of his prior appearances, Lent responded combatively to even routine questions.
When Circuit Court Judge Marcia Buckley called Lent to the stand and mentioned that McCrum was joining via phone, Lent said loudly, “I don’t have an attorney yet, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. Mr. McCrum doesn’t have a thing to say until I tell him he’s allowed to say something … Mr. McCrum is nothing … He doesn’t speak until I tell him to speak, period.”
Buckley told Lent, through continued interjections, that he was “bordering on my finding you in contempt.” Lent said the judge knew as well as he did that the proceedings were all a scam.
When Buckley asked if Lent had contact information for his new lawyer, he said, “Don’t care. Don’t really care. I’ve got a mailing address where he’s going to get his letter rogatory [a term for a request from a judge in one country to the judiciary of another]. And he’s going to come in here and dance like the little monkey I make him to. That’ll be the end of that.”
The judge attempted to clarify whether or not Lent wished to represent himself. “No, the counsel needs to come in here and read that letter rogatory on record,” he said.
“So, you do not want to represent yourself?” Buckley asked.
“Oh no, he’s going to come in here and say what I tell him,” Lent said — to which the judge replied that Lent’s discussions with his attorney were privileged.
The hearing continued in that fashion, with outbursts from Lent and admonitions from Buckley. The judge asked Lent how many days he thought he would need for trial. Lent said it would take five minutes, “because you’re just going to say, ‘Not guilty, this scam is over.’”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Lynn Howard told the judge she thought trial would take one day, while McCrum thought it would take two.
Lent told the judge he would not be available to come back to court until January, as he would be out of the country until then. “I’m taking off in two weeks. I’m not waiting on you people. I have a life to live,” he said. The judge asked Howard to confirm that Lent’s conditional release agreement did not restrict travel, and the prosecutor said it did not.
The judge eventually managed to schedule the trial — at one point she told Lent that another outburst would result in a contempt charge — to begin Jan. 12, 2022, with a trial readiness hearing Jan. 3. There could be yet another procedural hang-up, however, as McCrum noted during a brief silent moment in the hearing.
“Your honor, I’m going to point out the obvious,” he said. “There may be problems with my representation of Mr. Lent continuing,”
Buckley gave Lent the opportunity to ask questions of the court, and he then said, “You have your life lived knowing these people are lying about you and filed a false police report on you and turned in evidence to your sheriff, wouldn’t you be upset?”
The judge said that wasn’t an appropriate matter for discussion at a status hearing, and McCrum told Lent he could address it privately with him. Lent made it clear he did not have confidence in the attorney.
Lent said he had two more questions, but he only got one out. He said he needed to see the “1040 V” filed in the case. “I need to see the bid bond please. I want the bid bond please,” he said, apparently invoking a pseudo-legal theory of criminal law, based on the Uniform Commercial Code, frequently cited by so-called sovereign citizens.
“We’re not dealing with that today,” Buckley said.
“Of course we’re not,” Lent replied. “Of course we’re not, because, you know, it stops it from moving forward … You can stop with your threats,” he said, as Buckley gestured to caution him.
At that, the judge said she was holding Lent in direct contempt, and a deputy placed him in handcuffs. Buckley said he would be jailed for 24 hours. He appeared on the online Lincoln County Jail roster as of 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Oregon Occupational Safety and Health had been investigating complaints that Underground Pizza Network was flouting COVID-19 safety rules. An agency spokesperson told the News-Times that investigation is no longer active considering the closure of the restaurant.