Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Expert: Drugs made HIV transmission unlikely

September 29, 2006


Even though he was HIV-positive, his drug-treatment regimen helped make the risk of spreading the disease through unprotected sex "immeasurably small."

That was the picture painted Thursday by a defense expert testifying on behalf of Robert W. Richardson II, a Lawrence man on trial this week for allegedly exposing four women to HIV in the past year.

Clifton Jones, a Topeka physician who specializes in infectious diseases, cited a study done in Uganda that found there was no transmission of the disease during sex for people with less than 1,500 copies of the virus in their blood - and that the chance of spreading the disease through sex at that level was less than 1 in 10,000.

Richardson had fewer than 50 copies of the virus at one point in November 2005, according to testimony. At that level, Jones told jurors, "it seems probable" there would be no risk of exposure through sex, though he said he couldn't prove it.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Amy McGowan said even though spreading the disease would be rare at that level, "Rare doesn't mean no risk, right?"

"That's correct," Jones said.

Today will be the third and likely final day of testimony in Richardson's trial in Douglas County District Court. Prosecutors rested their case at midmorning Thursday, and defense attorney Thomas Johnson then began calling his witnesses.

An alleged victim who had an affair with Richardson while the two were working at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment testified Thursday she was "shocked" when she learned through media reports that Richardson was HIV positive.

According to testimony, Richardson sometimes explained his health problems by saying he had a heart condition - at least, that's what it sounded like he was saying.

Attorney Johnson has suggested that Richardson really was saying he had a "H.A.A.R.T." condition - an acronym meaning "Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment" - which was his way of describing his regimen of HIV-treatment drugs.


Ragingbear 11 years, 7 months ago

Any judge that would even attempt to accept this type of defense is not worth his or her robes. Not like Lawrence is in a shortage of supply of crappy judges that shouldn't be on the bench.

Steve Jacob 11 years, 7 months ago

I bet every defence lawyer in the country in a trial like this will "hire" Mr. Clifton Jones as an "expert".

bruhahax 11 years, 7 months ago

Defense lawyer is reaching pretty low...he must know this case is done.

This whole time Richardson was telling the truth saying he had a HAART condition....these women should have picked up on that, right? I mean its just a one letter difference between HEART and harm done!

Give me a break.

geekin_topekan 11 years, 7 months ago

"HAART" condition?Thats a good one Richardson! Tell me this wasn't pre-meditative.

pelliott 11 years, 7 months ago

I once heard a lawyer argue that a woman was an unfit mother and that was the reason the creep shouldn't pay child support on his 3 sons because as a nurse in a childrens hospital she would sometimes tend children infected with aids. This particular defense of a man who only wanted to have unprotected sex and had hiv status will probably kill thousands of people, many of them children, this aids education is deadly. Even if this defense fails to defend this guy, this message is out for those who want to use it both in the bedroom and later in court. Richardson, Thomas Johnson and Clifton Jones are responsible for this scenario presented and its effects. Damn them.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 7 months ago

how is this even a defence, if you are sick and you know it then you know you are putting people at risk. So you are doing so with full knowledge and foresight, no matter what drugs you are taking.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 7 months ago

ok when the flu hits in big numbers this year everyone should go to the lawers house and hang out and say hey I am taking meds so did not think you could get sick from me.. That is the worse excuse I have heard, you know you are sick no matter with what, so you know you are risking other people when you expose them with or with out informing them, YOU know.

Becca 11 years, 7 months ago

Right. And I'm frickin' Santa Claus. If taking drugs keeps it from being spread, then what do you all want for Christmas?

Baille 11 years, 7 months ago

"How is this even a defense?"

The argument is that the Def. did not intend to infect anyone with AIDS.

The law says that he must know himself to be infected with AIDS and engage in sexual intercourse with the intent to expose the other to AIDS. Criminal intent as used in the statute can be either conduct that purposeful and willful and not accidental - in other words, the defendnat had sex with the purpose of exposing teh partner to AIDS - subjective standard. Or it can be shown by proving the conduct was 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. In other words, one can be found guilty if it is shown that had sex recklessly by consciously and unjustifiably disregarding the danger of transmitted AIDS. This is an objective standard.

If the defense can establish that no reasonable person would think a viral load of less than 100 could transmit AIDS then the prosecution could fail to prove criminal intent under the recklessness prong. That is a viable defense argument. Likewise, if the defense can establish that the defendant did not have sex with the purpose of exposing his partners to AIDS because he did not think his viral loads were high enough to do that, they can defeat the willful and purposeful prong. But both arguments depends on the facts of the case. Unfortunately, we only have a few.

Again, what would you have the defense attorney do? Roll over? The prosecution has to prove its case. Anything less reduces the judicial system to nothing more than a vigilante mob dispersing frontier justice.

Furthermore, note that the statute makes consensual sex illegal. One with AIDS or other life-threatening communicable diseases cannot have sex even with someone who knows about the infected status and agrees to have sex anyway. It appears on the face of it that this would even apply to two people with AIDS having sex with one another. James, baille me out if I am wrong, but this would seem to be the basis of a possible challenge to the constitutionality of the law.

Becca 11 years, 7 months ago

It's gonna be a pretty light Christmas this year, I guess.

oldgoof 11 years, 7 months ago

Baille: You explained it correctly. And the constitutionality challenge will also be that the statute is too broad in general (what is a fatal disease? Does this include common HPV virus for instance which is clearly linked with cancer? All strains or some? How about Syphilis? and other STDs)

In addition the defense has wisely objected to protect appeal to the introduction of certain evidence (one example: computer chat logs between the D and one of the women) which were introduced, and show D's state of mind very specifically concerning that liaison.

This isn't a cake-walk of a case like most would assume here. It will be interesting to watch.

Baille 11 years, 7 months ago


Not sure how that sheds light on the current issue, though.

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