Court: Not Disclosing HIV Before Sex Isn't a Felony

Terrance Williams' partner got sick, but appeals court says that's a misdemeanor
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 20, 2015 7:44 AM CST
Court: Not Disclosing HIV Before Sex Isn't a Felony
Terrance WIlliams didn't act out of "any malevolent desire" to spread HIV, a New York court says.   (Shutterstock)

In 2011, New York prosecutors charged a 22-year-old Syracuse man who had neglected to tell his sexual partner he had HIV and subsequently infected him with a felony. But two lower courts ruled the charge should be switched to a misdemeanor, and yesterday the New York State Court of Appeals upheld those decisions, agreeing Terrance Williams should face a misdemeanor reckless endangerment charge instead, the AP reports. Although the court majority wrote that Williams' actions were "reckless, selfish, and reprehensible," they found he didn't show "depraved indifference"—a required element of a felony charge. One judge did dissent, writing that Williams lied more than once, showing "utter indifference" to his partner.

Williams was found to be HIV positive in December 2009, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported in 2011. He then had sexual relations with the unnamed partner between July and November 2010; the victim was diagnosed as HIV positive in February 2011. Court papers cited in the Post-Standard say Williams sent a remorseful, "guilt-ridden" message to the victim in April 2011. Williams' appellate lawyer argued that the partner's risk of contracting HIV after four or five sexual encounters was "low" and the chances of dying from it "extraordinarily low" thanks to treatment advances. The assistant district attorney disagreed, saying, "It's still a potentially deadly disease. It's not always a death sentence, but it can be." If convicted of the misdemeanor, Williams could face a year in jail, as opposed to the seven the felony charge could have brought, the AP notes. (Read more HIV stories.)

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