New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday said a man is facing charges for allegedly coughing on a grocery store worker before saying he contracted the CCP virus.
George Falcone, 50, was charged with making terroristic threats, harassment, and obstruction, according to Murphy. The incident allegedly unfolded in a Wegmans store in Manalapan, the state’s attorney general said in a statement.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China before it was transmitted worldwide.
“There are knuckleheads out there. We see them and we are enforcing behavior,” Murphy told reporters on Tuesday.
The female employee at the Wegmans said the man was standing too close to her and an open display of food, said the attorney general’s office. The worker then told him to step back as she covered the food.
“Instead, Falcone allegedly stepped forward to within 3 feet of her, leaned toward her, and purposely coughed,” the office said. “He allegedly laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus.”
According to prosecutors, Falcone then allegedly told two other Wegmans employees that they’re lucky to have jobs amid the pandemic.
A Manalapan Police Department detective who was working security approached Falcone. He didn’t cooperate and failed to provide his name or identification, according to officials.
After some time, he then identified himself and was allowed to leave the Wegmans. Falcone then received a summons to appear in court at a later date, the office wrote.
“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,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.
He added: “We must do everything we can to deter this type of conduct and any similar conduct that harms others during this emergency. Just as we are cracking down on bias offenses and those who use the pandemic to fuel hatred and prejudice, we vow to respond swiftly and strongly whenever someone commits a criminal offense that uses the coronavirus to generate panic or discord.”
Falcone could face three to five years in a state prison for one of the charges and faces up to two years in prison for the other charges.
“I commend the officers and detectives involved in this case for bringing criminal charges against the individual responsible for causing additional stress to the employees and patrons of Wegmans during these unprecedented times,” said Manalapan Police Chief Michael Fountain in a statement. “It sickens me to think an individual would lower their basic human standards during a time of crisis such as we are experiencing. As evident by these charges, law enforcement will not tolerate individuals breaking the law and placing others in fear during an already tense situation.”