As the United States faces the coronavirus pandemic, many people are practicing social distancing (if not entirely isolating), stocking up on food, and reaching out to loved ones. Some people, as it turns out, are also getting charged with, among other things, making terroristic threats for their alleged behavior. Why? One New Jersey man was charged with making a terroristic threat after allegedly coughing on a supermarket employee on purpose and telling her he had the virus. One Missouri man was charged after allegedly posting a video of himself licking sticks of deodorant in a store and saying, “Who’s scared of the coronavirus?” on social media.
Let’s start with New Jersey. George Falcone, a 50-year-old man, was charged on Tuesday by New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. In a statement from the attorney general as reported by NBC News, a Wegmans employee reportedly asked Falcone, who was standing close by, to step back. According to prosecutors, she reportedly said he was “standing too close to her” and covered a display of prepared food while speaking to him. That’s when Falcone allegedly moved closer, leaned toward the employee, and coughed, before allegedly telling the worker he had the coronavirus. He then allegedly told two other employees that they were “lucky” to have jobs.
Grewal said, “These are extremely difficult times in which all of us are called upon to be considerate of each other — not to engage in intimidation and spread fear, as alleged in this case. We must do everything we can to deter this type of conduct and any similar conduct that harms others during this emergency.”
Falcone was charged with harassment, obstructing administration of law in the fourth degree, and a third-degree terrorism charge. Reuters reports that in a Facebook message to the news outlet Falcone denied the accusations, saying he "didn't cough on anyone and never mentioned corona."
And in St. Louis? As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 26-year-old Cody Lee Pfister was charged by the Warren County Prosecutor’s Office with making a terrorist threat in the second degree over a video from March 11. Pfister “knowingly caused a false belief or fear that a condition involving danger to life existed” according to court documents, as reported by The Daily Beast. The same documents report Pfister acted “with reckless disregard of the risk causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure” of that Walmart location.
Warren Police shared a statement on Facebook: “This particular video, which won’t be shared here, has gained some international attention and we have received numerous reports about the video from locals, nearby residents, as well as people from the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.”
A final story comes from a seniors-only shopping hour at a supermarket. Daniel Tabussi, a 57-year-old man from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, faces charges for making terroristic threats, disorderly conduct, harassment, and simple assault by physical menace after allegedly coughing close to an elderly person while in a supermarket and repeatedly telling them he had the virus, as reported by ABC 27.
As reported by local outlet Fox 43, authorities say that on March 20, Tabussi allegedly approached an elderly person, who was wearing a medical face mask and gloves while recovering from pneumonia, and intentionally coughed close to them. According to authorities, Tabussi made the coughing sounds as he smiled and laughed.