ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4)– An Aspen man who intentionally coughed on a woman while walking along the Rio Grande Trail in March, will get mental health counseling in lieu of jail time, according to the Aspen Times.
The police report states Tom Patierno, 35, admitted that he “got in her face, and then made a coughing gesture” while walking along the trail March 29. He told the officer that he was “so sick and tired of all these people and their paranoia” but added he was sorry for his actions.
The victim, a 68-year-old woman, reported that she was walking with her husband and asked Patierno to move over to give them more room, in accordance with the social distancing laws. Her husband told police that Patierno became upset and, approached his wife, “got in her face,” then coughed in his wife’s face.
Patierno was initially charged with disorderly conduct and according to the Aspen Times, less than two weeks later, the Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann — through the county attorney’s office — charged Patierno with the misdemeanor count of violating the March 23 county public health order for not social distancing.
Patierno faced up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine but on Thursday, took a plea deal. The Times reported in exchange for a guilty plea, his sentence has been deferred for six months and he will have six months of supervised probation. He also must perform 60 hours of useful public service, attend 18 hours of mental health counseling and write an apology letter to the victim. He was not fined and will pay all court costs.
According to the initial police report, Patierno told the responding officer that he was stressed because of the loss of his employment due to the virus, and also just aggravated at how people are reacting during this crisis.