Alberta judge convicts man of assault for coughing on waiter in Calgary bar

CALGARY – A man who took off his mask and deliberately coughed on a waiter at a Calgary bar last year has been convicted of assault.

In a ruling last week, Provincial Court Judge Heather Lamoureux wrote that “the emission of force consisting of molecules of air from the lungs” can be considered a use of force under the Criminal Code.

“The cough was not a reflex action, but rather an intentional physical act,” wrote Lamoureux.

The man, identified in the decision as Kyle Pruden, 35, was also convicted of assaulting a bar patron.

The court document says the altercations took place in November 2020 at the Black Swan Pub in Calgary.

Pruden was in the pub playing on a video lottery terminal when he went to the bar to cash in his $ 160 winnings, according to the court document.

Cayla Cossette, the employee, told Pruden that she was unable to pay the winnings because the bar owner had not replenished the cash.

The judge’s ruling says Cossette testified that Pruden then took off her mask and started coughing at her and said “is this because of COVID?” “

She testified that she was behind the bar when Pruden coughed on her, who was within two meters.

A 60-year-old regular at the bar then gave Pruden $ 60 and he left the pub.

The court document says he then went to Boston Pizza for beer and pizza before returning to the pub to collect the remainder of his winnings, around $ 100.

At this point, he says, Pruden thought the bar owner was an employee and demanded the rest of his money.

The bar owner told him he had no more money to pay him and Pruden punched the man, injuring him.

In his ruling, Lamoureux noted that there were three other cases where people were sentenced after coughing on others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is important to note that the court in each of these cases made no argument on the issue of force or intent,” she wrote. “In each case, the guilty pleas were accepted by the court. “

She also wrote that neither the Crown nor the defense were able to find any reported trial rulings on whether such an act qualified as a crime.

Lamoureux relied on the scientific consensus of the World Health Organization that COVID-19 is transmitted by respiratory droplets, which a person carrying the virus expels by coughing.

“Atmospheric pressure is a force at the molecular level just like a physical force visible to the naked eye. It is a fundamental science, undisputed and requiring no expert opinion ”, indicates his decision.

“As a result, when Mr. Pruden engaged in an intentional act of coughing, he was emitting a force made up of air molecules in the lungs into the atmosphere.

“It is an act of force within the meaning of the definition of force in[…]the Criminal Code of Canada. ”

– By Daniela Germano in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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