A man has fronted court charged with two counts of public nuisance after he donned a paintball mask and incited panic at the height of COVID-19 fears.
A man has fronted court charged with two counts of public nuisance after he donned a paintball mask and incited panic at the height of COVID-19 fears.

‘I’ve come from China’: Coughing Coles shopper’s dog act

A Logan pensioner has been fined $900 in court for donning a paintball mask and coughing on hapless Coles shoppers at the height of the COVID-19 panic in March, telling them he was infected.

Steven James Kline, 55, a former IT worker who now acts as a full-time carer for a family member, pleaded guilty to two counts of public nuisance.

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Beenleigh Magistrates Court heard on two occasions, between March 26 - 28 this year, a time when shoppers were stocking up on toilet paper and it was nigh impossible to find a bag of pasta, Kline wore the paintball mask to Coles Mount Warren Park.

Mount Warren Park man Steven James Kline, 55, leaving Beenleigh Magistrates Court. Picture: Alex Treacy
Mount Warren Park man Steven James Kline, 55, leaving Beenleigh Magistrates Court. Picture: Alex Treacy

Police prosecutor Const Lauren Cox told the court while wearing the mask, Kline would approach shoppers and cough on them while saying, "I've been to China, I've got coronavirus."

On at least one occasion, Kline left Coles only to return a short time later having changed his apparel, removing the mask in favour of sunglasses and a red bandana, to witness the havoc he'd wrought.

On March 28, police attended the Coles after a complaint, only to find they had just missed Kline, although they found him a short time later driving in his vehicle.

He innocently told officers he was just "panic buying" and it was not until May 28 he was charged after police viewed CCTV footage.

Legal Aid Queensland lawyer Penny Hallam told the court her client's offending was his own misguided attempt to ensure social distancing.

"His motivation was not to cause a public nuisance but to keep people out of his space," she said.

"But he knows that's completely unacceptable."

Ms Hallam said her client did have an unrelated cough at the time and did not intend to "purposefully cough on people".

Magistrate Louise Shephard was scathing of the cack-handed tactic.

"I'm hoping you have insight into how appalling your behaviour was," she told Kline.

"Particularly at that point in time, the community was in a state of panic, it would have caused them significant stress."

Kline was fined $900 but given the benefit of not having convictions recorded due to his "limited" criminal history.

Originally published as 'I've come from China': Coughing Coles shopper's dog act



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