JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The girl seen in a viral video giving the finger to a different shopper then coughing in her face at a Jacksonville mall has been sentenced to 29 days in jail for assault.
The choice ended a number of hours of testimony and questions Thursday within the sentencing listening to of Debra Jo Michele Hunter, the lady from Fernandina Seashore, outdoors of Jacksonville, Florida. It got here regardless of an August plea settlement that had consisted of solely probation with circumstances.
Duval County Courtroom Decide James Ruth first heard testimony from Hunter’s husband, buddies and household who mentioned she has a “actually enormous coronary heart” and is “broken-hearted” over how she coughed on most cancers affected person Heather Sprague. However after they spoke on behalf of Hunter, Sprague informed the choose in regards to the confrontation that occurred solely months after she underwent mind tumor surgical procedure.
Sprague mentioned she watched Hunter, 53, give a minimum of quarter-hour of what she referred to as “escalating bullying,” swearing and threats to Pier 1 workers a couple of damaged merchandise with Sprague’s youngsters close by. It was solely when Sprague mentioned she began capturing video within the closing minute of the tirade that she was yelled at, then coughed on.
After Sprague heard the defendant’s four-page assertion, she mentioned it was extra in regards to the affect the notoriety of the viral video has had on Hunter and her household, very “self-absorbed” with out a lot apology to her.
“She gave herself permission to behave on this method as she then selected to stroll as much as me,” Sprague mentioned. “… That was not the kneejerk response of an overprotective Mama Bear. It was an episode that was rooted in privilege and entitlement, and it was focused to use and assault vulnerability with an assumption of immunity to penalties.”
Ruth then watched Sprague’s 40-second video clip, with an preliminary remark a stunned “Oh my” as he noticed the impolite gesture and coughing, then including this “tirade” took longer than he thought. Earlier than he made his choice so as to add jail time to the plea settlement, he criticized Hunter’s testimony and letter to him, saying they principally targeted on the affect of the general public response to the video to her household.
“Her youngsters did not create this drawback and her husband did not, and she or he talked about the way it modified her world and she or he was getting nastygrams on Fb and issues of that nature and so they cannot go to their nation membership or wherever,” Ruth mentioned. “However I’ve but to see any expression, or a major expression on her remorse in regards to the affect it had on the sufferer on this case!”
Sprague was on the Pier 1 retailer when she noticed Hunter get offended, in keeping with the arrest warrant. The sufferer recorded Hunter’s tirade on her cellphone. Then Hunter made a impolite gesture at her, earlier than asking whether or not Sprague would love her to submit it on social media. Then Hunter walked up, saying she’ll “get actual near you and cough on you,” then doing so in her face earlier than leaving with a small little one.
Sprague is a mind tumor affected person with a compromised immune system, she posted in Fb proper after the incident along with her video. She was carrying a masks and referred to as police 4 days later saying she had not been feeling nicely because the incident. She mentioned she didn’t converse, react or speak to Hunter in any respect.
Talking to the choose, suspect and her legal professional in addition to the prosecutor, Sprague mentioned she lived in worry after she was coughed on, feeling spit on her face in an act she mentioned was “calculated to assault me at my weakest level, bodily and psychologically.” She mentioned she spent days trying to find a spot to get a COVID-19 take a look at in worry for herself and 10 youngsters, turning up adverse.
“The intent of the defendant’s actions may solely have been to transmit illness or go away me fearful that I had been contaminated,” Sprague mentioned. “I frightened for the well being and security of my household and puzzled how on this planet I may probably isolate to guard them in a home of 12 if I had deliberately been contaminated.”
Through the first a part of the sentencing listening to on March 24, considered one of Hunter’s neighbors spoke in her protection. Talking by way of Zoom, Tarry Rogers mentioned Hunter was “deeply remorseful” for what occurred and nonetheless faces “collateral injury” from the occasion as she simply needs to maneuver ahead from what she referred to as “dreadful moments.”
Six others spoke out in Hunter’s protection throughout Thursday’s continued Zoom listening to, together with retired Jacksonville police Lt. Allen Eason. The household good friend mentioned he was stunned at what he noticed in Sprague’s viral video, understanding Hunter “did not act the perfect,” however that is not the girl he is aware of.
Crying and sniffing as she wore a masks, Hunter mentioned the social media frenzy that adopted had many individuals threatening her as buddies shunned her and her three youngsters. She mentioned her son was ostracized at college as “the son of the lady who wore the Scarlet Letter,” including her disgrace and remorse will observe her for the remainder of her life.
“As a household we collectively keep away from anybody we acknowledge for worry that they may know,” she mentioned. “… The fact is my household has been completely scarred. My youngsters mustn’t must pay the worth for my mistake. I can overcome the ostracizing. I deserve it. My youngsters don’t.”
The State Legal professional’s Workplace’s plea settlement nonetheless features a withholding of adjudication and 6 months’ probation with circumstances, requesting Hunter take an anger-management program. She should write an apology letter to Sprague, which she mentioned she did months in the past, and reimburse the sufferer for the $150 COVID-19 take a look at she took after the cough.