Connect with us

U.S.

Those Who Intentionally Spread Coronavirus Could Be Charged for Acts of Terrorism, DOJ Official Says

Published

on

  • Individuals who threaten or attempt to spread COVID-19 could face terrorism charges, a Justice Department memo says, because the virus meets the statutory definition of a “biological agent.” 
  • Charges have already been dropped in places like Missouri, where a man recorded himself licking a line of deodorants in a Wallmart.
  • In New Jersey, another man was charged after purposely coughing on a grocery store employee before laughing and saying he had the virus. 
  • Others could soon face similar charges, like a woman who intentionally coughed all over products in Pennsylvania grocery store, forcing the store to toss more than $35,000 worth of goods. 

DOJ Memo 

The Justice Department’s second-highest-ranking official said Tuesday that people who threaten or intentionally attempt to spread the coronavirus could face criminal charges under terrorism laws. 

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen sent a memo with the guidance to top Justice Department leaders, law enforcement agency chiefs, and U.S. Attorneys across the country.

In it, he said prosecutors and investigators could come across cases of “purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.” 

“Because Coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’… such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes,” Rosen wrote. “Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.”

He did not state whether or not his warning was precautionary or if it came in response to reports of intentional exposure, but prosecutors at the state level have already begun pressing terrorism charges against those accused of maliciously trying to infect others. 

People Have Already Been Charged 

Prosecutors in Missouri, for instance, charged 26-year-old Cody Lee Pfister after he posted a video of himself licking merchandise in a Walmart. The video shows Pfister saying, “Whos’s scared of coronavirus? Don’t touch your mouth?” He then licks a row of deodorant sticks. 

The City of Warrenton Police Department said Monday that Pfister was taken into custody after it received numerous calls from people reporting the video. The calls came from local residents and even people from places as far as the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. 

Pfister was later charged with a terrorist threat in the second degree. In Missouri, making a terrorist threat in the second degree means ignoring the risk of “causing the evacuation, quarantine or closure of any portion of a building.” The crime is a class E felony, which means it can be met with a prison sentence of up to four years and a fine.

New Jersey was also hit with a case of similar reckless behavior, with the state’s Attorney General’s Office saying Tuesday that it charged a man for his behavior in a Wegmans store. 

According to a news release, a store employee was concerned that the man, 50-year-old George Falcone, was standing too close to her and an open food display. He then “allegedly stepped forward to within 3 feet of her, leaned toward her, and purposely coughed.” 

Falcone also reportedly laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus, then told two other employees they were lucky to have jobs. He was ultimately charged with harassment, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, and terroristic threats in the third degree. The last charge alone is punishable by up to 3 to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $15,000. 

A woman in Pennsylvania may also soon be hit with terroristic threat charges. Gerrity’s Supermarket, a small family-owned chain in northeastern Pennsylvania, said a woman came into one of its stores on Wednesday and purposely coughed all over fresh produce, the bakery department, and meat case section. 

The store co-owner, Joe Fasula, wrote a post on the store’s Facebook page saying, “While there is little doubt this woman was doing it as a very twisted prank, we will not take any chances with the health and well-being of our customers. We had no choice but to throw out all product she came in contact with.”  

The store said it hadn’t yet quantified the total loss, but estimated it to be well over $35,000. “We are checking to see if our insurance company will cover it, but even if they do, our rates will surely go up next year,” the post continued

“I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food. While it is always a shame when food is wasted, in these times when so many people are worried about the security of our food supply, it is even more disturbing.”

Police were contacted and the local District Attorney’s office promised to aggressively pursue numerous charges. While the woman isn’t known to be infected with COVID-19, police say they plan on making every effort to ensure she is tested. 

The woman, who the store says police “know to be a chronic problem in the community,” will also undergo a mental health evaluation, authorities said. 

The Justice Department’s guidance may now hopefully deter some people from carrying out these careless acts, but the reports of incidents themselves serve as a reminder to be extra cautious about touching your face during the pandemic. 

While the virus is believed to mainly spread between people who are in close contract, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has warned that “it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.” 

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Business Insider) (The Washington Post)

U.S.

Suspect in Deadly Waukesha Parade Crash Faces 5 Homicide Charges

Published

on

The suspect, who killed five and injured 48 after driving through a parade with his SUV, has a long criminal history and was released on bail a week prior to the incident for allegedly running a woman over with the same vehicle.


Car Drives Into Waukesha Parade

The man suspected of killing at least five people and injuring another 48 after driving his car into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, faces five counts of homicide, police announced in a press briefing Monday.

Dance groups, high school bands, politicians, and other members of the Milwaukee suburb marched Sunday in the 58th annual Christmas parade, which was put on hold last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At about 4:40 p.m — just 40 minutes after the parade started — a red SUV plowed through barricades, sped down the parade route, and barrelled into dozens of people.

While speaking at Monday’s press conference, Waukesha Police Chief Dan Thompson confirmed that the number of people hospitalized for injuries rose from 40 to 48 and includes two children who are in critical condition.

That figure differs from an earlier statement from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, which said six children of the 18 hospitalized there were in critical condition. 

Thompson named the victims who died, whose ages ranged from 52-81, and identified the suspect as a 39-year-old Milwaukee man.

According to Thompson, the suspect had been involved in a “domestic disturbance” involving a knife “just minutes prior.” The police chief went on to say that police were unable to respond to the initial call about that disturbance because they had to respond to the parade so soon after they got it. He also stressed that there was no police pursuit in action before the man plowed through the parade.

Thompson said that police are “confident” the man acted alone and found “no evidence this is a terrorist incident.” Still, he declined to say whether or not a motive was known.

In addition to the five intentional homicide charges police are recommending, Thompson noted that more charges may come as the investigation continues with assistance from the FBI.

Previous Criminal History and Questionable Bond

After the suspect’s name was released, reporters quickly found his lengthy criminal record dating back to 1999.

Court and police records show that, over the last 22 years, the suspect was charged or convicted with a wide range of crimes including domestic violence, battery, drug possession, and resisting arrest.

In addition to serving at least two jail sentences, he spent several years on probation as well as in court-mandated anger management programs.

Most recently, just six days before he drove through the parade, the suspect was freed on $1,000 bail after being accused of trying to run over the mother of his child with the same vehicle.

According to a police report seen by several outlets, the man in question was arrested on Nov. 2 when the woman accused him of punching her in the face then following her into the parking lot of a gas station with his SUV before running her over.

Officers wrote that they “observed tire tracks on her left pants leg”, as well as “swelling on her lip and dried blood on her face,” noting she was taken to the hospital after the incident.

Prosecutors charged the man with obstructing an officer, second-degree recklessly endangering safety with domestic abuse assessments, disorderly conduct with domestic abuse assessments, and misdemeanor battery with domestic abuse assessments.

He was also charged with bail jumping because he was already out on bail related to an incident in July 2020. In that case, he was charged with two counts of second-degree reckless endangerment of safety and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon.

While the suspect was initially facing a $10,000 bail, prosecutors agreed to release him on the $1,000 bail.

In a statement Monday, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office said it should not have recommended such a low bail and announced that it was launching an internal review into the matter.

The office also described the bail recommendation as “inappropriately low in light of the nature of the recent charges and the pending charges” and added that it was “not consistent” with the office policy “toward matters involving violent crime” or “risk assessment of the defendant.”

The suspect is set to make his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon. The District Attorney’s office said it will file initial charges at that time.

Editor’s Note: At Rogue Rocket, we make it a point to not include the names and pictures of mass murders or suspected mass murderers who may have been seeking attention or infamy. Therefore, we will not be linking to other sources, as they may contain these details.

Continue Reading

U.S.

Armored Truck Spills Money on California Freeway, Triggering Cash-Grab Frenzy

Published

on

Authorities warned that those who took money illegally could be charged and should return what they collected immediately.


Truck Accidentally Spills Cash on Freeway

An armored truck dropped loads of cash onto a freeway in Southern California on Friday, causing drivers to hop out of their cars and scramble to scoop up some of the money. 

According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the money belongs to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

It scattered in Carlsbad along Interstate 5 near Cannon road when one of the truck’s doors popped open, allowing bags of cash to fall out. Footage of the chaos that happened afterward has since been posted to social media by people like fitness influencer Demi Bagby, who has over 14 million TikTok followers.

Her footage shows traffic at a standstill as people laugh and rush to grab armfuls of what appear to be mostly $1 and $20 bills.

@demibagby

this is the most insane thing I have ever seen

♬ original sound – Demi Bagby

Authorities Warn Thieves of Potential Charges

As many online pointed out, these people were actually committing a crime by taking off with the money.
Later that same day, CHP announced that it was working with the FBI to retrieve any money that was illegally taken.

“I highly suggest to anybody that picked up cash out here — it’s not your cash, so turn it in immediately to the CHP office in Vista,” CHP Sgt. Curtis Martin told reporters.

By mid-afternoon, about a dozen people went to the department to hand in what they had collected, though it’s unclear exactly how much was taken and returned.

Authorities also said they arrested a man and woman at the scene after they locked themselves out of their car with cash in hand.

By Friday night, law enforcement officials thanked those who had already come forward, adding that investigators were now planning to track down those who failed to do so using social media posts that showed their faces and license plates.

In fact, authorities later released 16 photos and videos still frames of people who stole cash, saying that they
are encouraged to turn in the money within 48 hours in order to avoid potential criminal charges.”

See what others are saying: (NBC)(NPR)(The Los Angeles Times)

Continue Reading

U.S.

House Passes $2 Trillion Spending Bill

Published

on

The package, which provides historic levels of funding for key policy areas, now faces an uphill battle in the Senate.


Historic Legislation Clears First Hurdle

After months of negotiation, the House on Friday approved the $2 trillion social safety net and climate spending package at the center of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.

The legislation, dubbed the Build Back Better Act, was passed by a vote of 220 to 213 along near party lines. Just one Democrat voted against the measure.

Republicans remained in their unified opposition to the bill, and its passage was delayed after Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) took to the floor to speak for over eight hours through the night, setting a new record for the longest continuous House speech in modern history.

The package represents a massive overhaul of American education, healthcare, climate, and tax laws that, in some instances, provides historic levels of funding for key policy areas.

Among other measures, the bill would allocate $550 billion in clean energy investments, an amount that the White House said represents the largest federal expenditures in initiatives to combat climate change.

Some of the biggest funding areas also center around education, including a provision that would provide universal free pre-kindergarten for all 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, which the White House has described as the most significant expansion in such education programs since public schools were first created nearly half a century ago.

The universal pre-k program is part of a broader $400 billion in funding aimed at making childcare more affordable by ensuring that families earning under $300,000 annually will not have to spend more than 7% of their income on childcare for any children under six.

On top of that, the bill will implement affordable health care changes that are estimated to extend coverage to an additional 7 million Americans through expansions to Medicaid and further reductions in the costs of premiums for plans bought under the Affordable Care Act.

Most of the spending proposed in the act would be paid for by taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans. The legislation puts forward a 5% surtax on taxpayers with incomes above $10 million and an added 3% on incomes above $25 million.

For corporations, a 50% minimum tax on foreign profits would be levied, and companies that bring in more than $1 billion in profits would face a 15% minimum tax.

A Long Road Ahead

The $2 trillion price tag falls short of the initial $3.5 trillion that Biden had asked for, but even with the pared-down spending, the package still faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 split Senate.

Democratic leaders have said they intend to pass the legislation through budget reconciliation, which would allow them to approve the measure with a simple majority and thus, no Republican support.

That plan, however, would require all 50 Democrats to sign on. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Az.), however, have continually sought to negotiate down many elements of the Build Back Better proposal and so far have withheld their endorsements of the House bill.

Manchin has expressed his opposition to a provision in the bill that would give four weeks of paid family and medical leave for most American workers who are not already offered the options. 

Meanwhile, Sinema has not made her specific objections clear. She instead has voiced general grievances regarding broad spending and tax hikes on high-income earners.

The two moderate Democrats have already forced months of negotiations that resulted in the House version of the package being scaled down significantly, but additional efforts to further prune the act will likely risk alienating more progressive Democrats, whose votes are as equally essential to final passage.

Democrats will also need to make sure their package follows the strict rules outlined under the reconciliation process, which requires that all provisions have a direct fiscal impact and has already forced Democrats to drop certain wishlist plans, including providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Despite the daunting hurdles, Democratic leaders said they hope to pass a final version of the act before the end of the year, though they may be delayed by a series of pressing fiscal deadlines.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

Continue Reading