Florida man charged with spitting on police and claiming he has coronavirus

(Reuters) - A Florida man faces federal hoax charges for spitting and coughing on police officers and claiming to be infected with the new coronavirus while he was being arrested on domestic violence charges.

Federal prosecutors in Tampa charged James Jamal Curry, 31, with "perpetrating a biological weapons hoax," a charge that carries up to a five-year sentence if he is convicted for coughing and spitting on officers from the St. Petersburg police during a pair of domestic violence calls.

In the first, on March 27, prosecutors said that as officers were searching Curry, he said he was infected with the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease, and coughed on one.

Curry was released on bail after a night in jail but police were called to his apartment the next day. Prosecutors said that Curry attempted to resist arrest and while struggling with spat in one officer's face.

"I have corona, bitch, and I'm spreading it around," prosecutors in court papers quoted him as saying.

A subsequent test on Curry indicated that he was not infected with the coronavirus, prosecutors said.

Curry could not be reached for immediate comment.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)