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Archive for Thursday, September 28, 2006

HIV-exposure trial questions man’s intent

September 28, 2006

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An HIV exposure trial that started Wednesday in Douglas County District Court involves two central questions: one personal and one scientific.

First, did a charming man who likened himself to movie star Orlando Bloom intend to expose women to HIV by having sex with them without telling them of his condition?

Second, given the low level of the virus in his body at the time much of the sex was happening, did he actually expose them?

Defense attorney Thomas Johnson argued in opening statements Monday that the medicine that his client, Robert W. Richardson II, was taking reduced the virus to an undetectable level. That meant it couldn't have been spread.

But the first witness, Richardson's personal doctor, Christopher Penn, testified there was a possibility the virus still could be spread through intercourse even at those low levels.

"I can't say that there was no potential for exposure, based on the numbers that I have," Penn said.

Richardson met the four victims in various ways: two online, one at work at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and one through Kansas University's Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics.

During an opening statement, a prosecutor characterized Richardson as someone who wanted to live a normal life - which meant having unprotected sex.

"The defendant was not normal, ladies and gentlemen," Assistant Dist. Atty. Trent Krug said. "The defendant was afflicted with HIV, and he kept those scarlet letters a secret" from the women.

Three of the victims testified they didn't know Richardson was HIV positive before having unprotected sex with him. A fourth testified she knew of his status but that he removed a condom during sex without her knowledge.

Defense attorney Johnson said in his opening statement that "this is not a sex case," but rather a case about Richardson's intentions and the scientific information about how HIV is passed.

Even if there was no condom, Johnson said, the women were protected by Richardson's use of a difficult remedial drug regimen.

He pointed out that in a November 2005 lab test, Richardson had such a small quantity of the virus in his blood - a "viral load" of less than 50 - that the amount of virus couldn't be pinpointed.

"At these levels ... science just doesn't know" whether the disease can even be transmitted, he said.

If Richardson had intended to expose the women, Johnson said, he would have stopped taking the drugs.

Penn, who has treated Richardson since 2003, testified about the fluctuating levels of the virus found in Richardson's body at different times.

The women all had sex with Richardson between August 2005 and January 2006. In February 2005, a test showed Richardson had a viral load of 11,700, and he was placed on a new drug regimen. In November 2005, his viral load had dropped to less than 50, though Penn said the virus was still detected.

This June, a test showed the viral load had gone back up to 2,025, and in August it was down to 826, Penn said.

The doctor said the low level indicated by Richardson's November 2005 test could not predict how much of the virus was in his body in later months.

The trial is expected to continue through the week.

- 6News reporter/anchor Janet Reid contributed information to this article.

Comments

geekin_topekan 8 years, 2 months ago

He stayed on the drug to save his own a$$.He kept his condition a secret and continued t have unprotected sex because he hates women and wants to take a few with him. Removing a condom during sex without her knowledge?Case closed.

Kelly Powell 8 years, 2 months ago

he compared himself to orlando bloom.....hanging is to good for him....We must have standards.

Becca 8 years, 2 months ago

For once, I agree with Marion. It's called responsibility for your actions, and if you have a disease like HIV, you have to be responsible and tell the person you're intending to sleep with. I'm pretty sure that if these women do wind up with it, he can be charged with murder.

Centrist 8 years, 2 months ago

The intent is there ... no doubt. Otherwise, why the reckless promiscuity (and condom removal)??

They better not flub this up ..

KaraGourley 8 years, 2 months ago

I haven't even gotten past the first paragraph. Orlando Bloom???

UH NO!

This guy is disgusting.......

Bone777 8 years, 2 months ago

His intent? It was to get laid and to get the most sensation out of the act. The law needs to get clarified so that there are no questions or stupid defenses.

Castration and an HIV tatoo across his forehead for starters.

switzerland 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree that this man needs to take responsibility for his actions, but don't knock his attorney. Even the worst criminals deserve a defense. His attorney is doing the best he can with what he was given.

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

The defense attorney has to argue lack of intent. Sounds like a loser, but the attorney is ethical obligated to zealously defend the client. Doesn't mean he can lie - very unethical - but he has to argue nonetheless.

Using teh lay definition, it may very well be that the guy did not intend - as in set out to - give his partners AIDs. But legal intent is different. I will leave it up to JamesAust to explain how. :)

fiveohtr 8 years, 2 months ago

Have we not forgotten that these women also need to take responsibility for their actions. They had unprotected sex, then want to complain that they may have gotten something. They need to grow up. It is 2006, you can't do that anymore. Yes, even here in Lawrence, Kansas. Those women are just as much at fault as the defendant is.

bruhahax 8 years, 2 months ago

Anybody that worked at KDHE in his division knew he was a blatant liar (how he got hired, nobody knows:). Arguing intent is almost comical, he is one of the most dishonest people I know, and lazy too (not a crime yet).

Hated him from day 1. When this got out, I hated him even more.

Can't wait for him to burn for this, I'll start the fire now.

acg 8 years, 2 months ago

He's obviously deluded. Orlando Bloom? You could only wish buddy. It's probably a good thing he's a scary, frizzy headed freak, or more women might've slept with him. Ladies, please, be safe! It doesn't matter how hot he is, how sweet, how well spoken or educated, rich, smooth or clean he is, you don't know what he's got. (and vice versa!!) I can't understand, in this day and age running around having unprotected sex. Is that few minutes of pleasure really worth it?

Laura Watkins 8 years, 2 months ago

I totally agree that these women should have insisted they use a condom, but it is a crime to mislead someone when it comes to this sort of thing. These women didn't know that he could potentially give them HIV. And in the case of the fourth women, they used a condom and he took it off!! So she had done the responsible thing and was still exposed...

justthefacts 8 years, 2 months ago

For those who argue the women should have insisted on his using a condom, note that with one woman who so insisted, he removed the condom without her knowing/seeing it. SO - the only way a woman can protect herself from such exposure is to not have sex, with or without "protection", until/unless she knows for 100% sure that the male is not infected. And that's not going to happen 99.9% of the time, in part b/c not everyone who is infected knows it. People do not get tested, and even those who get tested and who have the virus may not be told that b/c it doesn't always manifest in test results (right away).

I recently heard talk of a health inititiative that would promote (nay require) automatic HIV testing, yearly, much like the yearly PAP smears for women. Get your blood pressure checked, weight taken, urine sample, and take an HIV test, once a year....

Becca 8 years, 2 months ago

And these character witnesses, they'd be women he met online and lied to?

Linda Endicott 8 years, 2 months ago

Justthefacts, the CDC wants everyone to be tested once for HIV/AIDS. It would only be yearly for those in at-risk groups...IV drug users, people with multiple partners or those whose partner has not been monogamous, people who have had blood transfusions.

As for the condoms, there ARE female condoms available now, but they're pretty expensive. But it would give the option to the woman, and the guy wouldn't have any say so in it.

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

Really, Couranna? Strict liability for spreading STDs? So even if you don't know you have an STD, you are liable for spreading it? What if you had an STD but reasonably believe that it has resolved? STill liable for its spread? Must you tell someone you had HPV 25 years ago, but it seems to have resolved itself as you have not had an outbreak since? Syphillis that has been treated and is no longer detectable in your system?

If you answer "no" to any of these questions then intent is a necessary issue that must be addressed.

And once again. legal intent does not necessarily require that you "get inside the mind" of a predator. Only specific intent requires that. Again, you can not use a lay definition for a legal concept.

Harry_Manback 8 years, 2 months ago

I don't understand why everyone can't understand that these women are to blame too. I'm sorry, but every time you decide to have sex with someone and don't know their status, you're taking a risk. I think what he did was sick, but where does personal responsibility factor into this? It's not like he raped them...

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

Well, Manback, if they tried to sue him civilly for exposing them to AIDS one could argue comparative fault.

In a criminal trial, there really is no room for comparative fault. Maybe the conduct of the victim might be used to mitigate punishment, but not fault. Just because someone does soemthing risky does not absolve another who breaks the law. The criminal still must pay.

For instance, it would be stupid to walk into a drug-ridden, crime-ridden neighborhood with $500 hanging out your front pocket. That does not justify the actions of the criminal who walks up and shoots you in the back the head and takes your money. Sure, you were stupid. That does not justify crime.

It is stupid to get drunk with some *weed you meet in a bar and accept a ride home from him. He may rape you. just because you do someting stupid and risky does not make the fact he raped you OK. "Oh well. She was drunk. He was obviously a *weed. There can be no rape here." Uh-uh. Classic BTV. And, for those who care, based on a rather obvious logical fallacy.

Becca 8 years, 2 months ago

Harry_Manback, on the flipside of that, people lie. The only way to know completely for sure if someone's not infected is to be in the room with them when they get the test results. And now, due to the privacy act, that's impossible. Even if they asked him, most likely he lied to them.

Halloweenie 8 years, 2 months ago

Orlando Bloom, huh?

LOL!

Okay!

Well, if he's found guilty and is sent to prison he better be careful! Orlando Bloom-type inmates are bought and sold for a pack of smokes quite often in prison!

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

Hey, Macon,

Rumor has it you are a downtown retailer. Which shop?

Harry_Manback 8 years, 2 months ago

Well, I hate to say this, but sometimes it IS the victim's fault too. It doesn't excuse the perpetrator's actions, but you put yourself in a risky situation by having sex with strangers (or even those you trust) and you take a chance. What if this woman got pregnant? Would she be in court over this...no!

I'm not perfect myself, and I'm not saying these women deserved to be put at risk, but if they're adult enough to have sex, then they should be adult enough to accept that there might be consequences. The comparisons you make are apple's and oranges. It's not illegal for adults to have consensual sex, however it is usually illegal to rob someone or to rape, whatever the circumstances.

I would never defend this guy's actions, they are morally reprehensible, but is it the court's job to legislate morality? People say he'll keep on infecting others, but what about the people who do the very same thing without knowing they have it? How is that okay, but this isn't? That's why I think putting this man away won't do a damn thing. People will still lie and people will still take risks. It's education and being responsible that will stop this.

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

No big deal, Macon. Just curious. I used to roll into Marion's business every so often and was just curious. Careful with the name-calling though. This rumor started with someone who appears to be you (I used "downtown retailer, " you used "downtown merchant"):

"macon47: Rick, we downtown merchants have BEGGED for the city commissioners to do something about the beggars panhandlers and bums in downtown lawrence. we know some lawerencites think they are cute, but they run off out of town people who come down town to shop. plus they steal stuff out of the stores for booze and smokes. what can we do?"

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

"The comparisons you make are apple's and oranges. It's not illegal for adults to have consensual sex, however it is usually illegal to rob someone or to rape, whatever the circumstances."

No they aren't. It is illegal to rob someone. It is illegal to rape someone. It is illegal to expose another to life threatening communicable disease. Kansas Criminal Code, brother. Try again.

KSA 21-3435. Exposing another to a life threatening communicable disease.

(a) It is unlawful for an individual who knows oneself to be infected with a life threatening communicable disease knowingly:

(1) To engage in sexual intercourse or sodomy with another individual with the intent to expose that individual to that life threatening communicable disease;

(2) to sell or donate one's own blood, blood products, semen, tissue, organs or other body fluids with the intent to expose the recipient to a life threatening communicable disease;

(3) to share with another individual a hypodermic needle, syringe, or both, for the introduction of drugs or any other substance into, or for the withdrawal of blood or body fluids from, the other individual's body with the intent to expose another person to a life threatening communicable disease.

(b) As used in this section, the term "sexual intercourse" shall not include penetration by any object other than the male sex organ; the term "sodomy" shall not include the penetration of the anal opening by any object other than the male sex organ.

(c) Violation of this section is a severity level 7, person felony.

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

And while we are at it:

KSA 21-3201. Criminal intent.

(a) Except as otherwise provided, a criminal intent is an essential element of every crime defined by this code. Criminal intent may be established by proof that the conduct of the accused person was intentional or reckless. Proof of intentional conduct shall be required to establish criminal intent, unless the statute defining the crime expressly provides that the prohibited act is criminal if done in a reckless manner.

(b) Intentional conduct is conduct that is purposeful and willful and not accidental. As used in this code, the terms "knowing," "willful," "purposeful," and "on purpose" are included within the term "intentional."

(c) Reckless conduct is conduct done under circumstances that show a realization of the imminence of danger to the person of another and a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of that danger. The terms "gross negligence," "culpable negligence," "wanton negligence" and "wantonness" are included within the term "recklessness" as used in this code.

And

KSA 21-3202. Criminal intent; exclusions.

(1) Proof of criminal intent does not require proof of knowledge of the existence or constitutionality of the statute under which the accused is prosecuted, or the scope or meaning of the terms used in that statute.

(2) Proof of criminal intent does not require proof that the accused had knowledge of the age of a minor, even though age is a material element of the crime with which he is charged.

For a more complete understanding of how these definitions and concepts actually play out, see your firendly local attorney. :)

Baille 8 years, 2 months ago

Wow. Just noticed you posted here a lot and were kind of funny. I thought I would see where else you posted. Took 30 seconds on Google which I took care of while sitting on hold.

While I enjoy the irony in "ok, i lied" followed so quickly by "i run the christian science reading room," it appears you are only funny if left to play alone. Carry on. Sorry to bother you.

Linda Endicott 8 years, 2 months ago

You're right, Marion, condoms are not 100% protection against HIV/AIDS, or any other STD. But they're better than no kind of protection at all.

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