In what is believed to be the first such case in Illinois, a man in the southeastern portion of the state faces up to a year in jail after prosecutors argue he violated a self-isolation order and exposed countless others to the coronavirus.
According to the criminal complaint, a 36-year-old man stopped at a gas station so his 4-year-old son could use the restroom. During the visit, an employee recognized the man from high school and knew that man was supposed to be in quarantine because he shared his story on Facebook. After the man left the store, the employee alerted his supervisor, who contacted the authorities.
“The individual entered into a Jasper County business and was clearly not self-isolating,” said Chad Miller, the state’s attorney in the county. Miller said the man’s actions “showed a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.”
Should He Face Charges?
The man at the center of the case is Jason Liddle, and he believes he is being singled out by the state. He says he never tested positive for the coronavirus and was only told to isolate by his physician. Liddle said he did not go to work during the isolation period and was doing a half-hour drive to his in-law’s house with his family when his 4-year-old asked to use the restroom. Liddle said he took his son to the restroom and was careful not to get close to anyone else, but he was recognized by a high school classmate who worked at the gas station and everything blew up from there.
“He knew coming out in public was not a good idea to do,” said employee Ashton Osborne. “So the moment I saw him, I got hold of my boss and told her,” going even further to state that the gas station was the “busiest it had been in days” when Liddle visited.
Liddle was officially charged with Reckless Conduct, which carries potential penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. The official charge reads:
“The State’s Attorney of said County charges that on March 25, 2020, in Jasper County, Illinois, Jason Liddle committed the offense of Reckless Conduct, in that the defendant failed to follow medical advice designed to protect the public with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others, in that the defendant ignored medical advice to self-isolate based on exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and went into a public place in Jasper County, Illinois, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/12-5(a). Class misdemeanor.”
While some liken Liddle’s actions to those who knowingly spread a condition like HIV, Liddle believes that’s a bit of a reach.
“I am not trying to downplay the fact that this is something major. It is very concerning for a lot of people,” said Liddle. “I get that people are afraid, but I am not going to go out and willingly get people sick.”
Liddle has been ordered to appear in court in May to face the charge.