Woman arrested for coughing on produce appears in court

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HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A Luzerne County woman is headed to trial Thursday in connection with an incident at a supermarket. Prosecutors say she threatened employees and customers of a grocery store by claiming she had COVID-19.

Prosecutors say this case could set a legal precedent not only in Pennsylvania but the nation. Cirko faces serious charges in connection with the incident that took place at this Gerrity’s Supermarket on the San Souci Parkway on the afternoon of March 25th.

This is video of 36-year-old Margaret Cirko as she walks into district court Thursday morning. Investigators say she spit and coughed at food and merchandise inside the Gerrity’s Supermarket on the San Souci Parkway in Hanover Township. Glenn Miller works in the meat department.

“She was being loud and screaming. I’m sick, I’m sick, everybody’s going to get the virus all types of complaints like that and was coughing all over everything,” said Miller.

Miller testified at the hearing that employees didn’t know what to think.

“I believe other employees were definitely concerned. I wasn’t and don’t know why. I wasn’t overly concerned. I was more concerned for the other employees that were by me and two customers there,” Miller said.

The store was cleaned and disinfected and more than $35,000 worth of food and other products had to be thrown out.

Cirko’s lawyer Tom Cometa challenged the charge of terroristic threats—weapons of mass destruction while under a state of emergency. Cometa said there was no weapon. Prosecutors argue that Cirko’s threat of using bodily fluid, a so-called “weapon of mass destruction” was enough to bring that charge despite the fact she did not have COVID-19.

“Well defense argued you need a mechanical device to set off a biological agent. It’s not the point of the charge. You can use biological agent of any kind in this case was the threat that she had COVID-19 and was spreading it across Gerrity’s,” said Sam Sanguedolce, First Assistant District Attorney of Luzerne County.

Prosecutors believe this case will be watched across the country.

“We have never had anything like this before and I think an important part of this case is setting a precedent because at that time you could imagine the panic it set off and other people thought it was funny to conduct the same type of act and what we want to do is deter those type of things,” said Sanguedolce.

We tried speaking with Cirko as she left district court.

Mehalshick: “Mrs. Cirko anything to say about what happened that day?”
Cirko: “No I’m good.”
Mehalshick: “It was a unique situation, anything to say to the people?”
Cirko: “No.”

District Judge Joe Halesey set all six counts to Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas for trial. Cirko remains free on bail.

If convicted on these charges, she could face five years in prison, fines and may have to pay restitution for damages.

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