- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 25, 2020

ASHBURNHAM, Mass. (AP) - A 71-year-old Massachusetts man facing charges for claiming he had COVID-19 when he spit at two women on a hiking trail because he was apparently angry they were not wearing face masks has been ordered by a judge to quarantine and be tested for the virus.

Hale Powell, of Westford, was released after pleading not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday to assault and battery and issuing a false threat of a biological agent.

He did not respond to questions about the incident when approached by reporters outside of court.

Two young women who had been hiking the Midstate Trail in Ashburnham on Nov. 15 paused to sit down on a bench at the Hudson Overlook, a popular spot where the Boston skyline is visible, police said.

A man confronted them about their lack of masks, police said. The man walked away, but returned, lowered his own mask and spit toward the women several times.

One of the women recorded a video of the confrontation.

An image of the man, taken from the video, was posted on the Ashburnham Police Department Facebook page and generated tips.

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