A crime that was arguably overloaded in the pandemic early in a possible 20-year federal sentence for a woman – a steep price to pay for stealing some things from a Walgreens, which as we have seen, is a very common occurrence.
The question of the April 2020 flight by Carmelita Barela and Rosetta Shabazz is that the two women coughed in the direction of store staff at Walgreens “near Civic Center” (maybe this one) and claimed to have COVID while pilfered items and left the store. As SFist noted at the time, were arrested soon and charged in federal court and “theft affecting interstate commerce,” a crime that comes with far stiffer penalties than merely stolen bronze.
The federal allegations seemed out of a desire to set an example of the case when it comes to bullying essential workers during a pandemic. And Barela was convicted by a grand federal jury on Wednesday, and now she will face sentencing on August 4.
“The proliferation of COVID-19 has forced almost all of us to sacrifice and rely on each other to maintain our safety and good health,” said U.S. Acting Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds a statement. “Unfortunately, some people have tried to use the crisis to intimidate essential workers and commit crimes. This conviction demonstrates that those who seek to exploit the pandemic and commit crimes for their own personal benefit will be held accountable.”
“The FBI did not stand by while criminals were using the COVID-19 pandemic to threaten and intimidate line workers,” the FBI Special Agent in charge of Craig Fair said in a statement. “People working in supermarkets and inconvenient stores risked going to work so the rest of us could get the food and medicine we needed. The FBI remained committed in this case to protecting essential workers in our community.”
Last year there were several high-profile cases of people coughing and claiming to have COVID as a means of intimidation in the course of a crime, and it will be interesting to see what sort of sentences Barela receives. It seems that Shabazz, who was allegedly the first person to start coughing during the April 6, 2020 incident, has not yet faced trial.
In another incident that was video-recorded and went viral earlier this year, a young woman who didn’t have a mask in an San Francisco Uber aggressively coughed on a driver when she tried to make it with her friends out of her car. That woman, Arna Kimiai, pleaded not guilty in April and has yet again to be tried.
Barela remains in jail pending sentencing, and could face up to 20 years in prison with a $ 250,000 fine – though it seems like the punishment probably won’t be quite that extreme.
Photo: Sachina Hobo