JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A woman accused of coughing in the face of a cancer patient in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic pleaded guilty Monday and faces sentencing for the misdemeanor assault on Wednesday.
Debra Hunter was arrested last June after she deliberately – and on video – coughed on a patron who was recording Hunter's squabble with store employees.
The video went viral and Hunter soon became known as “The Pier 1 Cougher.”
Hunter and prosecutors presented negotiated pleas to County Judge James Ruth three times -- none of which involved jail time -- but Ruth refused to accept them. Rejecting a negotiated plea is unusual in any case, but particularly in a low-level offense like Hunter's misdemeanor assault charge.
Hunter's attorney, Chris Carson, says he will present mitigating evidence about the online backlash his client endured after the video went viral. She faces up to 60 days in jail and a fine of $500.
Ruth is scheduled to sentence Hunter Wednesday morning at 10:30.