Florida woman who coughed on cancer patient sentenced to 30 days in jail

A Florida “Karen” who flipped her lid at a Jacksonville Pier 1 store and purposefully coughed on a customer has been sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Debra Hunter was also ordered to “pay a $500 fine, serve six months probation and participate in a mental health evaluation along with anger management,” David Chapman, communications director for the state attorney’s office in Jacksonville, told The Associated Press. Hunter also has to cover the costs of a COVID-19 test for the victim, Heather Sprague.

Last June, Hunter became incensed when the staff of Pier 1 refused to allow her to return an item she didn’t have in her possession.

“I’m a mother of ten, and currently a brain tumor patient at Mayo Clinic. Obviously, I don’t get out much right now,” Sprague explained in a Facebook post that went viral last June. “I had an appointment in the Town Center area, so I donned my mask and ducked into a store to escape the heat while I waited for my appointment time.”

While Sprague was at the store she noticed “two small children wandering around the store unattended for an extended period, and the little guy was doing the potty dance. It became apparent that they belonged to a woman at the register who was becoming increasingly belligerent.”

The woman [Hunter] “was screaming at, swearing, insulting, and threatening the staff as she demanded to return an item she didn’t have with her, just a photo of the item on her phone. The staff were professional and respectful. But they couldn’t return an item she didn’t actually have with her. … When she positioned herself so the clerks couldn’t exit the checkout area and screamed that she would stay right there, yelling as loud as she wanted, until all their customers left. … I stood at a distance, pulled out my phone and wordlessly began filming. She immediately turned her attention away from the staff to me.”

In Sprague’s video, Hunter makes a rude gesture, before walking over to her, threatening to cough on her before doing so. Sprague wrote: “The video tells the rest of the story.

“I did not speak, react, or engage. Simply stood to document the behavior. When bullies are faced with accountability they must acknowledge the unacceptability of their actions. Within 30 seconds of filming, her tirade was done and she left the poor staff in peace. … I’m off to find a Covid test, thanks Karen*cough, cough*”

Sprague, who is being treated for a brain tumor, eventually tested negative for COVID-19. She told the judge she spent days anxiously searching for a place where she and her family could be tested for the coronavirus. The tests ended up being negative, she said.

Sprague told the judge at sentencing: “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.”

“Hunter’s husband told the judge they had faced numerous hardships leading up to the incident, including losing everything they had in a house fire,” FirstCoast News reported.

However, Duval County Court Judge James Ruth was unmoved as “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.”

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