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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Rhode Island

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Providence Woman To Face Civil Violation Hearing For Allegedly Tossing Powdery Substance In U.S. Attorney’s Office Reception Area Resulting In Providence Fire Department Hazmat Response

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –Coalatta A. Cooper, 55, of Providence, will be summonsed to U.S. District Court in Providence, on a date to be determined by the court, to answer to a civil violation charging her with disturbance on federal property, announced United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha.

Ms. Cooper is being summonsed as a result of an incident inside the lobby area of the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, where it is alleged that Ms. Cooper intentionally spread a white powdery substance which led to the evacuation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a response by the Providence Fire and Police Departments. Ms. Cooper was immediately detained by a Federal Protection Service contract security guard assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Preliminary test results showed the powdery substance to be non-toxic. Ms. Cooper, the Federal Protection Service contract security guard and two Federal Protection Service officers were transported to Rhode Island Hospital as a precautionary measure to ensure they had not been contaminated by a toxic substance.

A preliminary investigation indicates that Ms. Cooper came to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to discuss a personal legal matter.

United States Attorney Peter F. Neronha commented, “I want to thank the Providence Fire Department, including the Hazmat Team, the Providence Police Department and the Federal Protection Service for responding so quickly and professionally, and for assisting our Office on this challenging day.”

Disturbance on federal property, a civil violation, is punishable by a statutory penalty of not more than 30 days in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

A civil violation is merely an allegation and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair hearing in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul F. Daly. The matter was investigated by the Federal Protection Service, with the assistance of the FBI, the Providence Police Department and the Rhode Island State Police.


To assist the media and the public, a glossary of federal judicial terms and procedures is available at

Contact: 401-709-5357

Updated June 22, 2015