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Woman who intentionally coughed on Jacksonville Pier 1 customer arraigned in Duval court

Debra Hunter is charged with one count of assault after a viral video appearing to show her coughing at a woman who was recording video.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The woman caught on camera appearing to intentionally cough on the woman who was recording video in a Jacksonville Pier 1 was in court Tuesday morning.

Debra Hunter was shown in a June video captured at the Town Center walking up to a second woman off-camera and deliberately coughing in her face after making a lewd gesture toward the camera.

The lawyer representing Hunter says she has pleaded not guilty. The defense attorney says the case is due back in court in November.

In August, Hunter was offered a deal with the state on one charge of assault.

At the hearing in August, Hunter's attorney, Chris Carson, waived her right to a speedy trial, given the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic. The state attorney's office said the state is offering the following sentence:

  • Withhold six months' probation with special conditions
  • Anger management
  • No victim contact
  • Restitution in the amount of $150
  • A letter of apology
  • A COVID-19 test

Hunter's attorney stated that she was tested for the novel coronavirus immediately after the incident and was negative.

Judge James Ruth inquired why the state stipulated Hunter be tested for COVID-19, and the state attorney explained the video showing her coughing on the alleged victim, Heather Sprague, whom the state attorney said is a cancer patient.

As she was filming, Sprague was wearing a mask because she is undergoing treatment for a brain tumor, and has a compromised immune system, she told First Coast News. Hunter was not wearing a mask.

Sprague filed an incident report with the company that day, and filed a police report a few days later.

Judge Ruth added that Hunter cannot return to Pier 1, cannot have contact with the victim and must adhere to any establishments' mask-related policy. Hunter is due in court again on Oct. 6 at 9 a.m.

According to a warrant obtained by First Coast News, Hunter is charged with assault. According to Florida Statutes, "An 'assault' is an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent."

Hunter was arrested on July 22. She bonded out immediately.

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