George Falcone is the New Jersey man facing criminal charges, including making terrorist threats, after police said he coughed on a worker at a supermarket and then told the woman he was infected with the coronavirus.
The interaction happened on Sunday, March 22, at a Wegmans supermarket located along U.S. Highway 9 in Manalapan. Falcone was questioned by a police officer at the store.
He was not arrested. But according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, “summonses were issued which will require Falcone to appear in court at a later date.” Falcone has publicly denied the accusations.
New Jersey has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, behind New York. As of March 25, New Jersey had 3,675 confirmed cases and 44 deaths.
Here’s what you need to know.
AG: George Falcone Intentionally Coughed On a Supermarket Employee After She Asked Him to Back Away
As the coronavirus outbreak continues, Americans have been advised to practice “social distancing” in order to avoid contagion. Health professionals say people should stay at least six feet away from each other.
George Falcone was not abiding by that rule as he shopped at a Wegmans in Manalapan, New Jersey, during the evening of March 22. According to New Jersey Attorney Gurbir S. Grewal, a supermarket employee felt Falcone was “standing too close to her and an open display of prepared foods.” She asked him to step back as she covered the food.
But instead of complying, she said Falcone stepped closer, leaned in, and coughed. She said Falcone told her he was sick with the coronavirus and laughed. Investigators said Falcone also told two other workers they were “lucky to have jobs.”
“Exploiting people’s fears and creating panic during a pandemic emergency is reprehensible,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said in a prepared statement. “In times like these, we need to find ways to pull together as a community instead of committing acts that further divide us.”
Falcone Initially Refused to Cooperate Or Identify Himself to a Police Officer
George Falcone resisted cooperating with a Manalapan Police officer who was on duty at the Wegmans at the time of the encounter. The Attorney General’s office said Falcone would not show the officer his driver’s license or reveal his name.
Falcone eventually complied after 40 minutes of questioning and was permitted to leave the store. According to a national database for inmate records, Falcone was not arrested. His name does not appear in a federal database, either.
But two days after the incident at the store, AG Grewal announced Falcone would face criminal consequences. The charges include:
“These are extremely difficult times in which all of us are called upon to be considerate of each other— not to engage in intimidation and spread fear, as alleged in this case,” said AG Grewal said. “Just as we are cracking down on bias offenses and those who use the pandemic to fuel hatred and prejudice, we vow to respond swiftly and strongly whenever someone commits a criminal offense that uses the coronavirus to generate panic or discord.”
NBC News, citing the Justice Department, reported that those who threaten others with the coronavirus could face federal charges as well.
Falcone Said He Didn’t Cough On the Woman & Denies Claiming He Was Infected With COVID-19
George Falcone has denied the charges against him. He told Reuters via Facebook Messenger, “Didn’t cough on anyone and never mentioned corona.” But Falcone has since made his Facebook page private or has deleted it.
Heavy has reached out to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office to request a copy of the criminal complaint and to get clarification as to which court the case will be managed in. As of this writing, Falcone had not yet hired an attorney.
Falcone could face prison time if convicted on the charges. The “terrorist threats” charge carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000. The fourth degree charge for obstructing a government function includes up to 18 months behind bars and a $10,000 fine. The harassment charge is a “petty disorderly person” offense that could result in six months in jail.
Investigators said Falcone lives in Freehold, New Jersey, which is located about 30 miles east of the capital city of Trenton. A search of online records show Falcone is married and that he and his wife have owned their current home since 2018.