In Pennsylvania a woman was charged with terrorist threats after coughing on thousands of dollars worth of groceries in Gerrity’s Supermarket. The woman, later identified as Margaret Cirko, entered the store in an agitated manner, yelling at employees and customers, claiming she has the coronavirus. She began coughing and spitting on multiple sections of the store, including the produce, meat, and bakery items. She continued this behavior down multiple aisles and attempted to steal a 12-pack of beer as she was being ordered to leave the premises by employees. Joe Fasula, the co-owner of the store, expressed over social media the amount of work that went in to sanitizing and restocking the store following the incident and estimates that the total loss of groceries was over $35,000 dollars.
It’s unknown if the woman has COVID-19, but the district attorney is planning on making every effort to see that she is tested. She has been officially charged with felony counts of terrorist threats, threats to use a “biological agent”, and criminal mischief, as well as misdemeanor counts of petty theft and disorderly conduct. Her preliminary hearing is set for April 8th.
In light of the pandemic, the U.S Justice Department sent a memo to federal law enforcement officials saying that they can prosecute certain coronavirus-related crimes as acts of terrorism. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen specifically states in his memo that, “threats or attempts to us COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated. The crimes can range from malicious hoaxes, to threats targeting specific individuals or the general public, to the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.”