“One thing that makes this case difficult is you don’t look like our usual criminals,” Harris said. But you created a situation that was just as dangerous as anyone who did that.” The judge meted out Rhoades’ sentence: 25 years in prison.
“Often times for the court it is easy to tell when someone is dangerous. His crime: having sex without first disclosing he had HIV.
The national tally is surely higher, because at least 35 states have laws that specifically criminalize exposing another person to HIV. In 60 cases for which extensive documentation could be obtained, Pro Publica found just four involving complainants who actually became infected with HIV.
That’s not a surprise, because Rhoades used a condom.
And medical records show he was taking antiviral drugs that suppressed his HIV, making transmission extremely unlikely.
A national group of AIDS public health officials later submitted a brief estimating that the odds of Rhoades infecting Plendl were “likely zero or near zero.” After his lawyers petitioned the court, Rhoades’ prison sentence was changed to five years’ probation.
Lab results and a bottle of pills found in the Rhoades’ refrigerator confirmed the detectives’ suspicions: Nick Rhoades was HIV-positive.Almost a year later, in a Black Hawk County courtroom, Judge Bradley Harris peered down at Rhoades from his bench.In July 2008, the Cedar Falls Police Department questioned Nick Rhoades, accusing him of having sex without first disclosing that he was HIV-positive even though his partner never contracted the virus. Nick Rhoades was clerking at a Family Video store in Waverly, Iowa, one summer afternoon in 2008 when three armed detectives appeared, escorted him to a local hospital and ordered nurses to draw his blood.A dozen miles away, his mother and stepfather looked on as local sheriff’s deputies searched their home for drugs — not illegal drugs, but lifesaving prescription medications.
People with HIV have been sentenced to years or even decades in prison for having sex without telling their partners they’re infected, even when they practiced safe sex.Are these laws a deterrent to spreading the virus or could they actually fuel the epidemic?