Margaret Ann Cirko was sentenced to at least one year in prison Tuesday after coughing and spitting on produce in Gerrity’s Supermarket early in the pandemic – screaming that she had Covid-19. The 37-year-old Pennsylvania woman is also expected to pay $30,000 in fines after she pleaded guilty to a felony count of making bomb threats.
Cirko didn’t make bomb threats specifically but she did claim that everyone in the supermarket would get sick. Though she later tested negative for the virus, her threats sparked mass panic among patrons and hurt the reputation of the store.
Margaret Ann Cirko reportedly walked into Gerrity’s Supermarket in Hanover Township on March 25, 2020, before she turned down the produce aisle and frantically coughed on the fresh produce. She then told everyone that they would get the coronavirus as she continuously spat, sneezed, and coughed without a face covering.
She continued to cough and spit “in several aisles before attempting to steal a 12-pack of beer as she was being ordered to leave the story by employees,” police reported. Cirko was quoted with saying: “I have the virus and you’re all going to get sick!”
Cirko ruined over $35,000 worth of merchandise, according to Joe Fasula, the co-owner of Gerrity’s Supermarket chain. Fasula deemed Cirko’s actions a “twisted prank” that forced the store to throw away a large selection of high-quality goods.
He explained on Facebook in March 2020 that he was “absolutely sick to [his] 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.”
He said that “today was a very challenging day. 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.”
Margaret Ann Cirko apologized in court Tuesday, claiming she wished she “could take it back.” According to her lawyer, Thomas Cometa, Cirko was under the influence when she performed her sick joke. Cometa also pointed out that his client tested negative for Covid-19 and did not actually put anyone at risk of infection. He also explained that his client had a history of alcoholism and mental health problems.
It was not “an excuse but it [was] an explanation,” Cometa told the court. Several of the other charges against Margaret Ann Cirko were dropped after she made her guilty plea. The prosecutors dropped the criminal mischief charge, along with charges of disorderly conduct and making terroristic threats.
Luzerne County President Judge Michael T. Vough deemed Cirko’s actions “totally outrageous.” The judge sentenced her to one to two years in jail, followed by eight years of probation.
Cirko’s lawyer also tried to get the bomb threat charge dismissed because his client’s actions didn’t include a mechanical device. Judge Vough upheld the charge, anyway, citing bodily fluids as the threatening device. It is believed that the case will establish a precedent for future cases.
According to reports, Margaret Ann Cirko also pleaded guilty to another charge in April. She was accused of making a scene outside of a church in Warrior Run, Pennsylvania. Cirko refused to leave the premises and during the trial, prosecutors pointed out that she was not even a member of the church.
While outside the church, Cirko reportedly screamed “I love God” over and over again. She also shouted “God loves me. Jesus, won’t you walk with me? Jesus, won’t you walk with me?”
Cirko went back to the spot three times despite being asked to leave twice before. During her third outburst, she slammed her fists on the building’s front doors and begged for God to “let me in,” while shouting “I love you.” She was fined $276 for the incident.