A Harrison man coughed on Kearny police officers, claiming to have COVID-19, after trying to break into cars earlier today, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced.
Marco Costa, 28, of Harrison, was charged today by police in Kearny with terroristic threats during an emergency, three counts of throwing bodily fluid at a law enforcement officer, five counts of attempted burglary, and possession of a hypodermic syringe, Grewal said in a statement.
Costa was arrested after police received a report of a man fitting his description pulling on car door handles in the area. While being handcuffed, Costa allegedly told officers he had the coronavirus and purposely coughed at them.
“Our police officers are working bravely and tirelessly every day to protect us during this health crisis,” Grewal added.
“Regrettably, they are being called upon far too often to deal with people violating the emergency orders— or what is more egregious, people using the virus to spread fear or impede officers in their vital work.”
Violations of the emergency orders constitute a disorderly persons offense carrying a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, violators can potentially face criminal charges including second, third, and fourth degree indictable offenses.
“Because lives are at stake, enforcement action will be taken without hesitation against those who are blatantly placing the lives of others at risk,” noted New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick Callahan.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Fourth-degree charges carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Last week, a Kearny woman was charged in a similar incident in Belleville.