Debra Hunter sentenced jail time: Florida woman caught on video deliberately coughing on a Pier 1 customer at a Jacksonville store gets 30 days jail & $500 fine.
A judge in Jacksonville on Thursday also ordered Debra Jo Hunter of Fernandina Beach to pay a $500 fine, serve six months probation and participate in a mental health evaluation along with anger management. She was also ordered to cover the costs of the victim’s COVID-19 test according to WJXT.
Hunter received credit for one day already served in jail. She was arrested last June after she was recorded deliberately coughing on the other customer during an argument with employees inside the store. According to investigators, the victim, Heather Sprague, had begun recording Hunter’s heated encounter with the employees. Hunter saw her and made a rude gesture before walking up and saying she would cough on her.
After Sprague’s video of the incident went viral, Hunter was identified as the woman in the video. Sprague filed a police report.
Defendant insisted she already paid price for her mistake
In March, Hunter agreed to plead guilty to a charge of misdemeanor assault.
Appearing at court, 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.
Hunter told the judge her family has paid the price for her mistakes, adding that her children continue to lose friends, and that they don’t go out in their community anymore.
Hunter also told the judge that the video shows her in the ‘worst possible light on my worst possible day, and that’s not who I am… if I could take it all back, I would take it all back.’
Debra Jo Hunter, who was recorded in a viral video intentionally coughing on a cancer patient in Jacksonville, Florida, has been sentenced to 29 days in jail.https://t.co/YZOIfgYerj
— Travis Akers (@travisakers) April 9, 2021
‘could have been a death sentence,’
But that’s not the way the judge saw it.
Before ordering jail time, Duval County Court Judge James Ruth said she was struck by the fact that Hunter’s testimony focused less on how she may have harmed the victim, whose coughing ‘could have been a death sentence,’ for Sprague and more on how her actions affected her own family.
‘Her children didn’t create this problem and her husband didn’t, and 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,’ Ruth said. ‘But 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!’
Sprague said the encounter left her stunned and fearful.
‘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,’ she said.
She told the judge she believes there should be accountability for Hunter’s actions, which is why she chose to report the incident.