Dexter man gets 30 years in HIV-exposure case
A Butler County judge sentenced a Dexter man to 30 years in prison after saying he willingly and intentionally put sexual partners at risk for HIV. X, 39, appeared before Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Pritchett for sentencing Tuesday afternoon.
X pleaded guilty June 2 to two felonies of exposing another person to HIV infection.
The allegation in count IV of X’s sentencing assessment report said between April 1, 2013, and April 30, 2013, knowing he was infected with HIV, X “recklessly exposed” the victim to HIV infection without that person’s knowledge and consent.
Regarding X’s HIV status, Pritchett said, it was his “understanding” X first learned he was HIV positive in 2003 and received medical treatment from 2003 to 2009.Pritchett asked why X stopped treatment after moving to Stoddard County in 2009. X indicated he didn’t have transportation for doctor’s visits.
“You made the choice to not get treatment?” Pritchett asked.
“Pretty much,” X replied.
One victim, Pritchett said, reported asking X whether he was “disease free,” and X saying he was. X said he did not recall saying that.
“You did not disclose your condition at the time,” Pritchett said.
X answered no, as he did when asked whether “protection was used.”
“You made the decision not to take action to protect your partner? … You realize you placed others are risk,” Pritchett said.
X, who answered affirmatively, was asked about two “different” statements he made regarding the number of sexual partners. When X initially was interviewed by officers, the judge said, X reported more than 300; however, he told the SAR investigator 12.
“I was trying to make my partner jealous,” X told the judge. ” … I believe 12 is more accurate.”
X denied disclosing his “condition” to any of the 12. When asked about his “plan” if he is released from incarceration, X said he planned to apply for disability based on his HIV status. X also admitted to using marijuana but not when “engaging” in the conduct for which he was charged. Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver told the judge he found the “high risk” of a sex offender re-offending as “most disturbing.”
“Given the fact, even after he had knowledge of his HIV-positive status, additional victims were named,” Oliver said. There were a number of occasions, according to Oliver, when X was “engaging in sex acts at a public park.”
” … The fact he is charged with recklessly exposing others to HIV, while in jail, he has been defecating in public areas … (performing sex acts) around other inmates, further exposing those to his condition.”
Fox described her client as being educated and apologetic. Fox told Pritchett that X understood the seriousness of the offenses and would do well on probation.
X pleads guilty in HIV case
A Dexter man who admitted to exposing as many as 300 people to HIV has pled guilty to two counts of recklessly risking infection of another person of HIV.
X entered the plea of guilty to the two counts on Tuesday, June 2 at the Butler County Courthouse.
According to Stoddard County Prosecutor Russ Oliver, the state offered the plea after two of the witnesses decided to not testify against X — which reduced the number of counts. X initially faced seven counts of recklessly risking infection of another person of HIV.
Through the investigation, Dexter Police Department Detective Cory Mills interviewed alleged victims from Stoddard, Dunklin, and other surrounding counties. The first victim approached police Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, and stated that he had been lied to regarding X’s HIV status before their first sexual encounter in 2012. The two were in a relationship from Nov. 2012 through June 2013.
Upon being interviewed by police, X admitted to having tested positive for HIV in 2003. He claimed at the time to have had 300 partners since being tested — 50 to 60 of which he stated were in Stoddard County.
When Mills asked why he had not disclosed his positive test to sexual partners, X replied, “Fear of rejection.”
In Nov. 2013, X requested a change of venue and judge. The case was assigned to Butler County, and Judge Michael Martin Pritchett was assigned to hear the case.
After having gone through multiple defense attorneys X was represented last Tuesday by Erica Fox.
X is scheduled to have his sentencing hearing on July 21, in Poplar Bluff.
Missouri man who exposed partners to HIV clouds question of laws on disease
DEXTER, • It was a stunning revelation.
Last August, inside the white brick police department building, the man sitting a few feet from Detective Cory Mills said in a matter-of-fact tone that he had exposed as many as 300 men to the virus that causes AIDS.
The man, X, had come to the station to address allegations by an ex-boyfriend that X did not disclose his HIV status, and that there had been other sexual partners who were not told as well. A month earlier, the ex-boyfriend had gotten bad news from the county health department — he was HIV-positive.
X did not dispute the account, based on police records. He told Mills he had been HIV-positive since 2003 and had not told his sexual partners, several of them anonymous hookups through websites such as Craigslist. They included truck drivers he would meet in a park near the police station or on a gravel road outside of town.
“Just give me an explanation as to why,” Mills said.
“I just have a fear of rejection,” X, 38, replied.
Legislators and prosecutors nationwide have seized on the case out of this small southeast Missouri town.
They say it shows why tough laws must continue to remain on the books to punish those who are HIV-positive and have sex without disclosing their status to their partner.
Such laws swept across the country at the height of the AIDS crisis 25 years ago, when treatments greatly reducing the chances of transmission were nonexistent.
Aaron Laxton, a St. Louisan who writes for The Body website, devoted to providing information on HIV and AIDS, said the laws were designed to stop the spread of the virus. But they have had the opposite effect, he said.
“If the laws were working, we wouldn’t have 50,000 new cases of HIV nationally a year,” Laxton said.
Now, a growing national movement wants to rethink those laws, which many argue are outdated.
There is little support for decriminalizing heinous violations in which predatory offenders willfully place others at risk, like in the Dexter case. The problem, critics say, is that laws are not written to draw distinctions between serious offenses and lesser violations. In contrast, a killing can result in various degrees of murder or manslaughter, depending on the circumstances.
With the Missouri HIV law, like many across the country, a person can be convicted of a felony for exposing a sexual partner to the disease, even if the virus is not transmitted. The law does not allow condom use as a defense, and a conviction triggers placement on the state sex offender registry.
Determining where to draw the line has states wrestling with tough questions.
If a person who is HIV-positive is taking medication that reduces his viral load to a level that doctors refer to as undetectable, and he uses a condom during sex, should that be a felony?
And why have tough penalties for HIV and not for other sexually transmitted diseases such as human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis C or herpes?
The Dexter case has in some ways eclipsed those kinds of questions, redirecting public attention to the most extreme cases.
Those pushing to change the law say far more common are cases where a relationship goes south and the partner who is HIV-positive is forced to prove he or she told the other.
A presidential panel on national AIDS policy weighed in on the HIV laws last year, calling them “grossly out of proportion to the actual harm inflicted and reinforce the fear and stigma associated with HIV.”
Even the prosecutor in the Dexter case sees the need to treat such cases differently.
“We need the law on the book that we have for the situation like we have in Dexter,” said Russell Oliver, prosecuting attorney in Stoddard County. “But we also need prosecutorial discretion.”
That includes looking at whether the person who is HIV-positive was “exerting reasonable efforts to protect other people,” he said.
In Iowa, a case far different from the one in Dexter is attracting attention. And it’s helping to rally support for overhauling the law.
In 2009, Y was sentenced to 25 years for not disclosing his HIV status to a sexual partner. There was no room in the law to consider a lesser charge based on the facts that Y used a condom and that he was on virus-suppressing drugs that make transmission unlikely.
After his lawyers petitioned the court, Y’ prison sentence was changed to five years of probation. But his lifetime listing on the sex offender registry remains in place.
The X case was highlighted over and over to show why the laws should be changed to offer lesser charges for those who can show there was not intent to expose or transmit HIV.
After a five-year push by advocates, the Iowa Senate unanimously passed a bill in February putting in a tiered system of punishment, which takes into account intent to transmit and whether the sexual partner contracted the virus. The bill would remove the sex offender registry as part of the punishment, and, as proposed, would include the spread of other diseases such as tuberculosis, meningitis and various forms of hepatitis.
Currently, the Iowa law, like in most states, provides little, if any, wiggle room for punishment.
“It’s one size fits all,” said Tami Haught, who works for a nonprofit group in Iowa that advocates for those with HIV-AIDS and hepatitis.
But efforts to change the law have hit a snag. Legislators in the Iowa House want to amend the bill Haught and other advocates supported, including keeping the sex offender registry as part of the punishment.
Meanwhile, activists see the Iowa reform efforts as not going far enough.
Sean Strub, founder of POZ magazine and on the front lines of the effort to change Iowa law, said as long as not disclosing is illegal, there will be people who decline to get tested — especially young African-American men who are often suspicious or distrustful of law enforcement, he said.
“Why get tested and take on the legal liability?” Strub said.
In Illinois, prosecutors wanted to change the HIV law so it was easier to access medical records, providing proof of exactly when someone tested positive for HIV. Advocates saw it as an opportunity to bring other changes to the table, which were approved by the Legislature in 2012.
“The law no longer can be used (to prosecute) oral sex. The use of a condom cannot be prosecuted, and there has to be intent to expose,” said Scott Schoettes, a Chicago attorney for Lambda Legal, which works on discrimination cases for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those who are HIV-positive. “These are great substantive changes under the law.”
Efforts to change Missouri’s 26-year-old HIV law are in the early stages, with activists planning a series of community meetings this summer to talk about the virus, its treatments, the existing law and why they say it needs to be changed.
But high-profile cases could make it difficult to sway public opinion.
In addition to the Dexter investigation is the case of Michael L. Johnson, who as a member of the wrestling team at Lindenwood University in St. Charles was charged with exposing five people to HIV. One of the five tested positive for the virus.
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar said he has “strong reason” to believe Johnson, 22, exposed more partners. Police confiscated 32 videos from Johnson’s laptop showing him having sex with different men, most of them unidentified. Some of the videos were made in Johnson’s dorm rooms, and it is unknown whether the men knew they were being recorded.
“This would seem to indicate that it was more than just kind of careless behavior,” Lohmar said. Johnson was expelled from the university after charges were filed.
Lohmar did not want to wade into the debate on whether the HIV law should be changed, especially while prosecuting a case.
“The law is appropriate for this situation,” Lohmar said.
Based on recent cases in Missouri, Johnson’s fate is difficult to predict.
In January 2011, a Northwoods man was sentenced to 30 years in prison after St. Louis County prosecutors said he had sex with two women without telling them he had HIV. A year later, in St. Charles County, an O’Fallon man with the virus got 15 years in prison for biting a police officer. Six days after that, a man in St. Louis was acquitted in a case pitting his word against that of his girlfriend. The man had known since 2006 that he was HIV-positive, but prosecutors argued he did not tell the woman.
“It ended up being our story versus their story,” said defense attorney Tyson Mutrux.
He supports the efforts to provide a wider array of punishment options for HIV cases, limited currently to a Class B felony for exposure and Class A for transmission.
“But I don’t see it anytime soon. To change the complexion, it’s five to 10 years away,” Mutrux said.
St. Louis attorney Art Margulis represented a man who got probation in a similar case in 2012. Getting past the public perception of HIV and the stigma associated with it “is a bigger battle than the laws themselves,” Margulis said.
“As soon as the jury heard ‘HIV,’ the jurors reacted like jurors react to child molestation or child pornography.”
‘A GUN TO MY HEAD’
Eight months ago, Rex Gourley opened the front door of his small white house. Standing on the porch was Mills, the detective on the X case.
Gourley, 76, invited Mills in and told the detective he was aware of the investigation. He said he had met X on an Internet sex site. Twice last April, X came to Gourley’s house and the two men had sex.
Rex Gourley, 76, sits on the bed in his home where he had sex with X, inDexterm X is under arrest for knowingly infecting many people with HIV. Gourley said he received an email from X that read: “I hope you didn’t catch it. Sorry.” Gourley said he is lucky that he didn’t test positive for HIV. “He should be held accountable,” said Gourley. “But, everyone has a choice. He didn’t twist my arm to not use a condom. He shouldn’t have to spend his life in prison.” Photo by J.B. Forbes, firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, replied X.
Gourley told Mills he feared for his life and did not want to die.
“He is a personable young man, but he needed to be upfront about it,” Gourley said in an interview with a reporter. “What he did was no different than putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Just because the shot missed doesn’t mean he didn’t still put my life at risk.”
Gourley, who tested negative for HIV after X was charged, said X should be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years. He also supports keeping the sex offender registry intact for those such as X if they are convicted of transmitting HIV, as is alleged by X’s ex-boyfriend.
X remains in jail, awaiting trial on May 13. A judge set his bail at $250,000, saying he was a danger to society. If found guilty, X could be sentenced to up to 75 years in prison. Jail officials would not let a reporter speak with X.
“How many people in Dexter did he give HIV?” Gourley asks. No one knows for sure. X told police that of the 300 he exposed to the virus, 50 to 60 of his sexual partners were Dexter residents.
Mills, the detective, said he talked by phone with at least six men in addition to the three who pressed charges. But they did not want to get involved, he said.
And X said he didn’t have the names of most of his partners, so police can only do so much.
In addition to X’s 29-year-old ex-boyfriend and Gourley, a third man is part of the criminal complaint. He, like the boyfriend, tested positive for HIV.
Oliver, the prosecutor, made a public plea to residents of Dexter and nearby communities to get tested for HIV. As a result, there was a twofold increase in STD testing for three months at the Stoddard County Public Health Center. Bumps also were reported in neighboring counties.“Past that first initial news, I think our community is taking it in stride,” Oliver said of the case that has put the town of about 7,800 in the middle of a national debate.
Now the town awaits the outcome of the X case.
His public defender successfully applied for a change of venue to neighboring Butler County. Mills remains confident it matters little where the trial is held.
“I don’t think there will be an argument of whether he is guilty or not. The argument will be his punishment.”
FACING A LONG PRISON TERM
X is charged with two Class A felonies for allegedly transmitting the HIV virus to two men and one Class B felony for exposing a third man.
A Class A felony carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years; a Class B felony is 5 to 15 years. For X, a maximum sentence could be 75 years, if convicted.
X Allegedly Exposed 300 to HIV; News Sparks Jump in STD Tests in Stoddard Co
Yesterday, we reported on the troubling accusations against X, a 37-year-old Dexter man who police say admitted to knowingly exposing more than 300 sexual partners to HIV. As Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russell Oliver told Daily RFT yesterday, the concern extends well beyond his direct sexual partners: “Each could have partners of their own and those partners need to be informed.”
We since got a chance to speak with Debbie Pleimling, director of the Stoddard County Public Health Center, who tells us that, in response to the news, there has already been a noticeable jump in patients seeking STD tests. “We’re just wanting to get the message out that if you’ve had any contact or you are at risk,” she says, “get tested and get your results and get started on treatment if it’s positive. And do protect yourself.”
The accusations, which came out last week, and started getting national attention on Wednesday, are that Xhas known he was HIV positive since 2003, but has not disclosed that fact to the hundreds of sexual partners he has had since them. Many of them, according to police, were in Stoddard county in southeast Missouri. X reportedly met a lot of his partners on Craigslist and did not use protection.
The allegations came to light when one of his recent partners — who had lived with him for a short period of time and had repeated unprotected sex with him — tested positive for HIV and confronted Xabout it. Prosecutors say that X admitted his deception to this victim, who filed a formal complaint, and then waived his Miranda Rights with cops and confessed to them as well that he knowingly exposed hundreds of others.
The Stoddard public health center typically sees about three people a week who want free STD tests, Pleimling says. Since news started spreading last week of X’s charges, she says the center has seen about fifteen people. That number could grow as the story continues to make headlines. And local residents could also be getting tested through several other means, such as their primary care provider, she notes. “It’s expected when you have something like this in the news, it’s going to bring people out,” she says, “regardless of whether they’ve had actual contact with this individual.”
She says she is not sure if the spike comes from men who may have been exposed to HIV by X directly, but points out that a frightening story like this incentivizes people to get checks. “Testing is something that needs to be done regularly,” she adds. While it is a “sensational story,” she continues, “We area taking it day to day and doing our job. It is a big story, but we’re taking it in stride and doing what we need to do.”
X, who is facing a felony charge for recklessly and knowingly infecting a victim with HIV, is behind bars with bond set at $250,000 cash only. He does not have an attorney listed in court records.
Here is the full probable cause statement:
1 X PC Statement