Woman Who Coughed on Cancer Patient Is Going to Jail

Florida woman Debra Jo Hunter sentenced to 30 days behind bars
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2021 6:30 AM CDT
Consequences for Woman Who Coughed on Cancer Patient
Debra Jo Hunter   (Jacksonville Sheriff's Office)

A Florida woman who coughed in the face of a cancer patient last year was on Thursday sentenced to 30 days in jail and six months of probation. Debra Jo Hunter was involved in an angry confrontation with staffers at a Pier 1 Imports in Jacksonville on June 24, attempting to return an item she hadn't brought with her. She argued with staffers who explained they weren't able to refund her for something based simply on the photo of the item she had on her phone and refused to leave. Then Heather Sprague started filming. Hunter, who was not wearing a mask, walked up to Sprague (who was wearing one), and coughed in her face before leaving the store. Sprague posted video of the incident the following day. Four days later, Sprague, who was being treated for a brain tumor, started feeling unwell and filed a police report, News4Jax reports.

Hunter was arrested and spent part of one day behind bars before posting bond, for which she was given credit for time served, First Coast News reports. In addition to the jail time and probation, she must undergo a mental health evaluation, attend anger management classes and parenting skills classes (at least one child was with her at the time), pay a $500 fine, and cover the cost of Sprague's COVID-19 test (which came back negative, the Miami Herald reports). Addressing the judge Thursday, Hunter bemoaned the impact this has had on her children and said she wonders "what it would be like if every one of us as the flawed human beings we are had their worst moments reduced to a short video for all the world to see and judge." The judge wasn't buying it: "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," he said. "But I have yet to see ... a significant expression of her regret about the impact it had on the victim." (More Florida stories.)

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