Shopper who coughed on cancer sufferer is jailed for 30 days

Harriet Brewis
Sunday 11 April 2021 17:33
news

A woman who was filmed coughing on a fellow customer and cancer sufferer at a Florida homeware store has been jailed for 30 days.

Debra Hunter was also ordered to pay a $500 fine, serve six months probation, undergo a mental health evaluation, and take anger management classes.

She was also ordered to cover the costs of the victim’s Covid-19 test.

Hunter was arrested last June after she was recorded deliberately coughing, with a wide open mouth, on the other customer during an argument with employees inside the Pier 1 store.

The victim, Heather Sprague, had begun recording Hunter’s heated encounter with the employees on her phone when the aggressor spotted her.

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Hunter then stuck her two middle fingers up at Sprague before walking over and coughing in the woman’s face. Turning away, she added: “a**hole.”

Sprague, who is being treated for a brain tumor, told a judge in Jacksonville that she spent days anxiously searching for a place where she and her family could be tested for coronavirus.

The tests ended up being negative, she confirmed.

Defending his wife, Hunter’s husband told the judge they had suffered numerous hardships leading up to the incident, including losing everything they had in a house fire, FirstCoast News reported.

“It was like air being inflated into a balloon, and it finally got to the point where she couldn’t handle any more air,” Hunter’s husband said in court.

“And then she finally rubbed up against something and just popped.“

Hunter told the judge her family has paid the price for her mistakes, adding that her children continue to lose friends, and that they don’t go out in their community anymore.

“I watch as my kids lower their heads and turn the opposite direction, so they won’t be recognised or approached,” said.

“And I know exactly what they’re feeling because I do the same thing.“

Before ordering jail time, Duval County Court Judge James Ruth said she was struck by how Hunter’s testimony focused less on how she may have harmed the victim and more on how her actions affected her own family.

“Her children didn’t create this problem and her husband didn’t, and she talked about how it changed her world and she was getting nastygrams on Facebook and things of that nature and they can’t go to their country club or wherever,” Ruth said.

“But I have yet to see any expression, or a significant expression on her regret about the impact it had on the victim in this case.”

Sprague said the encounter left her stunned and fearful.

“I worried for the health and safety of my children, and wondered how in the world I could possibly isolate to protect them — in a household of 12 — if I had been intentionally infected,” she said.

She told the judge she believes there should be accountability for Hunter’s actions, which is why she chose to report the incident.

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