Florida woman who coughed on cancer patient says family 'has been permanently scarred'

Debra Hunter writes 3-page letter to judge explaining what led to her actions
Debra Hunter, letter to judge
Posted at 11:16 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 11:16:53-04

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A Florida woman who coughed on a cancer patient at a Pier 1 store last year told a judge that she deserves the public ridicule that has come her way as the result of her actions, but her children do not.

Debra Hunter, who was charged with misdemeanor assault after the June 25 incident at a Pier 1 in Jacksonville, recently wrote a three-page letter to Duval County Judge James Ruth accepting responsibility "for whatever justice you deem appropriate" while also explaining what led to her actions that day.

The incident was shared on social media and quickly went viral.

Heather Sprague, a mother and cancer patient, was using her cellphone to record an altercation between Hunter and store staff when Hunter turned her attention to Sprague.

Hunter, who wasn't wearing a mask, confronted Sprague, telling her, "I think I'll get real close to you and cough on you then, how's that?"

In her letter, Hunter wrote that her family "had been through one traumatic event after another" in the months prior, including a near-fatal boating accident and a fire that destroyed their house and most of their belongings.

Hunter wrote that her children "continue to suffer indignities caused by mistake."

"They are embarrassed, chastised and mocked" by their peers and adults, she explained.

Hunter went on to write about the friendships her children lost as a result of her actions and the "shame and regret" that will follow her for the rest of her life.

"The reality is that my family has been permanently scarred," Hunter wrote. "Although that scar made (sic) fade over time, it will never completely disappear. My kids should not have to pay the price for my mistake. I can overcome the ostracization. I deserve it. My children do not. And although I am able to rationalize and even reconcile all of this. My children cannot. They have been greatly affected by the thousands of text messages, emails, phone calls, postings, threats and even hand delivered letters."

Hunter also provided the judge with 24 pages of the wrath she has received, along with a letter of support from a friend.

Her sentencing is scheduled for next month. She could face up to 60 days in jail and pay a $500 fine.