DOJ: Threatening to spread COVID-19 could get you prosecuted as terrorist

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WASHINGTON, DC – Those who have thought themselves clever while joking about intentionally spreading COVID-19 to those they dislike had best put that to a halt. Unless, of course, they fancy being labeled a terrorist.

The Justice Department has been reviewing the possibility of treating those who intentionally spread COVID-19 as being prosecutable under federal terrorism laws.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, one of the highest officials within the Justice Department, stated the following within a memo circulated on March 24th regarding the intentional spread of the virus:

“Because [COVID-19] appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’… such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes. Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.”

The released memorandum didn’t detail if there were any current cases under review regarding intentional spreading of the virus, but Law Enforcement Today has reported previously on instances where individuals did threaten the spread.

AG Bill Barr also touched on the subject of supply hoarding during a White House briefing on March 23rd, specifically citing instances of health/medical supplies.

While the Department of Health and Human Services has not yet designated what will formally fall under these health-related items, once those are designated, prosecutions will take place under the Defense Production Act.

We’re certain that things like medical-grade face masks would likely get named, but therein lies the possibility that supplies like hand sanitizer could very well be included.

Something to take into consideration the next time someone is attempting to order 20 bottles of Purell.

The faction that will be handling cases related to hoarding will be a collaborative effort between U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito, as well as other U.S. Attorneys and the Justice Department.

As mentioned earlier, we’ve covered instances where there were alleged threats made by suspects who claimed to have the virus while coughing on police and first responders. 

A recent probable cause affidavit reviewed by Law Enforcement Today stated that a woman in Florida was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer/paramedic. The woman coughed on an EMS first responder while claiming to have COVID-19.

What led up to paramedics arriving on scene is even more interesting.

On March 18th, authorities responded to a call for domestic violence at 38676 Berchfield Rd in Lady Lake, which serves as a suburb of Orlando, Florida.

When police arrived at the residence, they encountered the male victim of the abuse as well as the female suspect, 38-year-old LaDonald Holmes.

Woman karate kicks boyfriend and coughs on paramedic: "I have the virus"
LaDonald Holmes – Lake County Sheriff’s Office

According to the male victim, Holmes was in bed with him and was demanding that he have sex with her. In response, the victim told Holmes “no,” saying it was because Holmes was planning on leaving him to go back to her ex-husband.

Apparently, that was the answer that Holmes didn’t want to hear.

Holmes allegedly “round house kicked” the victim in the nose, and followed that up with a punch to the nose as well. The police report also noted that Holmes is a “black belt in martial arts.”

Needless to say, the alleged act left the victim with a broken and bloody nose.

When police made contact with Holmes, she was reportedly being uncooperative with police while they were trying to inquire about what happened between her and the victim.

According to the affidavit, she refused to provide her name, details about what happened, or even acknowledge the accusations made against her.

So, based upon the victim’s statement (and likely seeing his broken nose), Holmes was placed under arrest. This led to a charge of felony domestic battery.

While the officer was trying to transport Holmes to the patrol vehicle, she was listed as not cooperating physically and also habitually falling along the way. Erring on the side of safety, the officer contacted Lake EMS in case she was enduring a medical episode.

When paramedics arrived on the scene, Holmes continued to be not only uncooperative, but also combative toward the officers and paramedics. One of the paramedics then administered a sedative to Holmes to help diffuse the situation.

Yet, the shenanigans didn’t end there.

The affidavit stated that when Holmes was placed on a stretcher, she coughed directly on Medic Gatnye’s face after having shouted:

“I have the coronavirus!”

That cough reportedly “resulted in copious amounts of saliva landing on the Paramedic’s face.”

Virus risks aside, that is just plain nasty.

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After the ejected saliva incident, Holmes was transported to Leesburg Regional Medical Center where staff evaluated her while being supervised by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The affidavit also noted that Holmes has attained numerous guilty convictions of batteries that transpired outside of Florida.

As for the victim, paramedics urged him to seek medical care at a hospital due to the severity of his sustained injuries. It was also noted that the victim does intend to press charges for the battery.

This case is reminiscent of one that recently occurred in Hanover, New Jersey. 

You know how they say it’s illegal to yell “Fire!” in a crowded building? Well, a woman in New Jersey is facing charges for something quite similar.

Except she told police officers, after coughing on them while getting processed at the station, that she had COVID-19.

Now, that woman is facing charges for said claim.

According to authorities, a 28-year-old woman from Wayne, New Jersey was arrested after she crashed her vehicle while she was intoxicated.

The woman, Lea Piazza, was hemmed up after the single-car accident on March 12th in Hanover.

When the inebriated woman was getting processed at the station, police asked her to kindly cover her mouth while she was coughing.

Her response to that was allegedly the following:

“Oh, by the way, I have the coronavirus and so do you now.”

Reportedly, Piazza further claimed that she’d contracted COVID-19 from her boyfriend, who she alleged carried the virus.

Police did not take that comment lightly, and three officers that had come into contact with the suspect immediately self-quarantined. That was, until the boyfriend of Piazza contacted police and described her claims as being “100% false.”

Now, on top of the charges she was facing related to that drunken crash, Piazza is now also facing charges for creating a false public alarm related to her alleged comments to police.

We at Law Enforcement Today are pleased to see the department taking that action seriously, because even if that woman thought she was being funny, there’s nothing hilarious at causing a false-panic.

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