Coronavirus is a “biological agent,” and using it to purposely get other people sick could be a crime violating federal terrorism laws, according to a memo sent by a top Department of Justice official.
The memo, sent by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to other department officials, law enforcement agencies, and U.S. Attorneys, reportedly says that intentionally exposing and infecting other people with COVID-19 “potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes.”
“Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated,” Rosen reportedly wrote. The memo was first reported by Politico.
In New Jersey, the state attorney general has beaten Rosen to the punch. On Monday, Gurbir Grewal filed multiple charges, including third-degree terroristic threatening, against a man who deliberately coughed on an employee at a supermarket.
Last Sunday, 50-year-old George Falcone was allegedly standing too close to a worker at a Wegmans in Manalapan, and when asked to back off, purposefully coughed on her and said he had coronavirus. (“Didn’t cough on anyone and never mentioned corona,” he told Reuters in a Facebook message.)
If convicted on all three charges, Falcone could face up to seven years in prison, including up to five years for the terroristic threatening charge.
“There are knuckleheads out there,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in a briefing on Tuesday. “We see them and we are enforcing behavior."
Cover: Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, July 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)