Federal authorities have charged a man who allegedly spit in the face of a police officer and falsely claimed to have coronavirus, with perpetrating a “biological weapons hoax.”
At the end of March, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) distributed a memo to prosecutors that said, in part, that coronavirus “appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent,'” and that “the purposeful exposure and infection of others with Covid-19” could be possible grounds for terrorism charges. Critics argue that’s a step too far.
Under US law, a “biological agent” means “any microorganism…or infectious substance, or any naturally occurring, bioengineered or synthesized component of any such microorganism or infectious substance, capable of causing…death, disease, or other biological malfunction in a human, an animal, a plant, or another living organism.”
The DOJ has aggressively cracked down on coronavirus-related fraud, but this is the first bioweapons-related coronavirus prosecution for the region around St. Petersburg, Florida, where the crime took place, a DOJ spokesperson confirmed, and among the first federal cases of its kind nationwide.
According to a complaint filed in Florida district court, the incident occurred the same day James Jamal Curry, 31, bonded out of jail after an arrest on domestic battery charges. During that initial arrest, which took place outside the home of Curry’s girlfriend, prosecutors said he intentionally coughed on a cop’s arm while being loaded into a transport van. “Well I got the corona,” Curry allegedly told the officer.
The next evening, Curry’s girlfriend called police to say Curry was again outside her apartment, in violation of a non-contact order. Cops arrived and apprehended Curry, who they say resisted violently. Once in the backseat of a police cruiser, Curry tried to kick out the rear passenger window. After being placed in leg restraints, he attempted to smash the window with his head.
When one of the cops reached into the car to grab Curry, he reportedly spit in her face. “A mist of spit struck her in the face and entered her mouth,” the complaint says. The police officers draped a spit hood over Curry’s head. According to the complaint, Curry then said, with a laugh: “I have Corona bitch, and I’m spreading it around.”
At the jail, Curry was tested for Covid-19. A week later, according to the complaint, the results came back negative.
The federal hoax charge carries a maximum sentence of five years. DOJ declined Quartz’s request for further comment.