A jury on Monday convicted a Lawrence man of exposing three women to HIV in what may be the first HIV-exposure case ever tried in Kansas.
About 10:30 a.m., jurors returned a verdict finding Robert W. Richardson II guilty of four counts of HIV-exposure involving three women - all of whom had unprotected sex with him without knowing of his condition. The jury found him not guilty of exposing a fourth woman, who knew Richardson was HIV-positive but testified he took a condom off during sex.
Jurors said they were appalled by the 30-year-old Richardson's deceptions with the women, most of all his explanation that his health problems were caused by a heart condition. He claimed he was being truthful by saying he had a "H.A.A.R.T." condition, or Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy - his name for his HIV-treatment drug regimen.
"I think he was a deceiver, a manipulator," said juror Kathy Perkins of Eudora.
Jurors found that Richardson meant to expose the women, despite his claim he didn't think he was contagious given the drugs he was taking, which he said kept his virus count low.
"I think he was lying to himself as much as he was lying to them," juror Melissa Padgett said afterward. "It makes me feel sorry for him in a way, but you don't have the right to play with other people like that."
Douglas County Assistant Dist. Attys. Amy McGowan and Trent Krug, who prosecuted the case, said they thought more victims might come forward given the verdict. Two victims came forward earlier this year only after reading about Richardson's pending charges in the Journal-World.
Richardson met two of the women online, one through work at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and one through Kansas University's chapter of the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics.
"There's almost a serial aspect to it. ... We have concerns that there may be more women out there who, for whatever personal reasons, might not want to come forward," McGowan said. "We would ask that they do that if they wish."
More about the case
- 6News video: Lawrence man found guilty in landmark case
- Defendant in HIV trial takes stand, says he didn't intend to infect women (09-30-06)
- Expert: Drugs made HIV transmission unlikely (09-29-06)
- HIV-exposure trial questions man's intent (09-28-06)
- HIV-exposure trial to begin next week (09-23-06)
- Judge won't dismiss HIV charges (09-07-06)
- HIV case first test of state statute (08-21-06)
Technically, Richardson was found guilty of "exposing another to a life-threatening communicable disease," a felony. McGowan said it would be helpful if Kansas had an HIV-specific law.
As far as the attorneys involved know, it's the first HIV-exposure case to be tried in Kansas, though the law has been on the books since the early 1990s.
"This is a solid result for the victims," Krug said. "I'm impressed with their resolve, and I think they're happy with the verdicts."
Defense attorney Thomas Johnson said he would appeal the verdict.
Richardson is due for sentencing Nov. 22. McGowan said Richardson faces likely probation under Kansas' sentencing guidelines. But the conviction means he would face prison if convicted on pending HIV-exposure cases in Lyon and Wyandotte counties. He also has a charge pending in Johnson County, Mo.