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Apr 03, 2020

Attorney General Talks Action Against Those Recently Coughing, Spitting on Cops

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that the Attorney General’s Office has taken over prosecution of six cases and is filing upgraded charges against defendants who allegedly threatened police officers by spitting or coughing at them and claiming to have the coronavirus.

“Last week, I said the time for warnings is over and those violating the COVID-19 emergency orders will face strong law enforcement action,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Police all across New Jersey are making good on that vow by charging violators with crimes. Now, with the cases being announced today, we’re letting our dedicated officers know that we have their backs as they work tirelessly to maintain public safety and health at this difficult time.”

Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice added, “We have superseded these criminal cases to ensure that they are prioritized and consistently prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We have upgraded the charges in four cases by adding a second-degree charge of making terroristic threats during a state of emergency, and in all cases, we have charged fourth-degree aggravated assault on an officer. All six defendants now face both of those charges.”

David Haley

One of the cases the Attorney General’s office has taken over is of David Haley, 52, of Perth Amboy. On March 21, Haley allegedly spit on Perth Amboy officers who responded to a domestic violence call. He claimed to be infected with the coronavirus. He also is charged with simple assault/domestic violence.

He has been charged with terroristic threats during a state of emergency (second degree), aggravated assault on an officer (fourth degree), throwing bodily fluid at an officer (fourth degree), and resisting arrest (disorderly persons offense).

Raymond Ricciardi

On March 25, during a domestic violence incident, 51-year-old Raymond Ricciardi, of New Providence, allegedly claimed he had the coronavirus and purposely coughed at police and medics.

Marina Bishara-Rhone

On March 14, Marina Bishara-Rhone, 25, of River Edge, was involved in a domestic violence incident and allegedly coughed directly on a responding officer, claiming that she had the coronavirus and hoped he was now infected.

Kenneth Wideman Jr.

During his arrest on March 19, Kenneth Wideman Jr. allegedly yelled in the faces of police officers and actively coughed and spit at them, claiming to have the coronavirus. The 30-year-old from Flemington refused police commands that he wear a mask.

Vanessa Shaaraway

On March 27, Belleville Police responded to a report of a shoplifter and encountered the suspect, 35-year-old Vanessa Shaaraway, of Kearny, who allegedly fled and refused commands to stop. When she was caught by two officers, she purposefully coughed on them and claimed that she was infected with COVID-19.

Jennifer Burgess

During a motor vehicle stop on March 16 in Dunellen, 35-year-old Plainfield resident Jennifer Burgess allegedly attempted to elude police and deliberately coughed on an officer, telling the officer that she had the coronavirus.

Most recently, an Edison man was reported to have spit and kicked Edison Township police officers, yelling that he had the coronavirus. The man’s parents had called authorities to come to the house on April 1 after their adult son was “out of control.” When officers arrived, the man had told the responding officers, “I have the coronavirus. I want somebody to come touch me.”

The man was charged with obstruction, criminal mischief, making terroristic threats and three counts of assault on law enforcement officers. His name is being withheld. However, according to the Edison Township Police Department, he is currently incarcerated in the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center in North Brunswick.

“We take all assaults on police officers seriously, but it is especially heinous for someone to spit or cough at an officer in an attempt to infect or threaten to infect them with COVID-19,” Grewal said. “Hundreds of officers across New Jersey are already infected with the virus, which, in many cases, they likely contracted by protecting and serving the public while on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19. We have zero tolerance for anyone who uses the coronavirus as a weapon or instrument of terror against officers bravely performing their duties during this health crisis.”

Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

While not against law enforcement, a Freehold man was detained last week after making similar terrorist threats, while claiming he was infected, against a Wegmans’s employee in Manalapan.

To report a lack of compliance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s emergency orders in your town, contact your local police department or visit www.covid19.nj.gov/violation.

For further information regarding the Attorney General’s prosecution and law against those making terroristic threats in regards to COVID-19, click here.