I was perturbed by this recent MSNBC headline: "Texan Gets 45 Years in Prison for Spreading HIV."
At first, I thought perhaps the man had gone around injecting people with the virus. That would certainly be a horrendous crime, right?
But no. This man has received 45 years in prison for having unprotected sex. Apparently, bodily fluids can now be considered a deadly weapon.
(cross posted at The Perimeter Progressive)
The man, Phillipe Padieu, age 53, was described by his own attorney as a "modern day Casanova." He infected six women with HIV by having unprotected sex with them. Prosecutors argued that Padieu’s bodily fluids were a deadly weapon because they contained HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. As a result, Padieu will be going away for assault with a deadly weapon.
I agree that people who purposely deceive their sexual partners regarding their sexual history and/or health are despicable and deserve some sort of punishment. But is it really the role of government to mete out such punishments? Since when is lying about sex against the law? Do we now have full disclosure requirements before engaging in one night stands?
More importantly, what about those six women that Mr. Padieu infected? Are they really "victims"? They made the conscious decision to have unprotected sex with a man. In today’s world, there is no excuse for engaging in unsafe sex. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for your entire life, there is virtually no chance that you are unaware of the risks of STDs, particularly HIV/AIDS. So use a condom, people!
Yes, accidents happen. Yes, condoms break. But what are the odds that SIX condoms broke with SIX different women? This guy would have to be the unluckiest guy in the world for that to happen. Which leads me to believe that the guy used his "Casanova" skills to persuade these women to forgo protection. That is reprehensible, to be sure. But is it assault?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way insensitive to the plight of those living with AIDS, and I am not trying to say that AIDS victims deserve to have such an awful disease. What I am saying is that people who have unprotected sex, regardless of the circumstances, need to take responsibility for the consequences.
What this man did was wrong. But his sexual partners are not blameless, and they are certainly not victims of assault with a deadly weapon.
This decision sets a dangerous precedent. What the court has basically said is that anyone who knowingly transmits a deadly disease is guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, and that anyone who chooses to have unprotected sex and contracts a deadly disease as a result is blameless. Bad idea, guys.
I'm also worried that the court has also basically said that someone with HIV/AIDS can be considered a deadly weapon - this could be used by those seeking to justify discrimination against those with HIV/AIDS.
If this stands...well just think about some of these questions:
-Are you allowed to enter the USA going through Customs with a deadly weapon?
-Can you be arrested for walking down the street concealing a deadly weapon?
-What is someone with HIV gets into a bloody car accident, no fault of their own. If there is, God forbid, some contact, could they be thrown in jail for assault with a deadly weapon?
Update [2009-5-30 16:3:7 by Perimeter Progressive]: - I am not saying that the guy should walk free. However, assault with a deadly weapon? We should lock up anyone with the flu then.
Update #2 : I just want to draw everyone attention to this very eloquent comment by ElsieElsie