An HIV-positive man has been sentenced to 18 months in jail for having unprotected sex with two women.
Daniel G. Cleaves is charged with two counts of reckless endangerment as a result of the sexual encounters, reports the Washington Post.
Cleaves, 28, of Virginia, reportedly has a history of alcohol and drug abuse, in addition to mental illness. On different nights in 2014, he met women at a bar in downtown Bethesda, Maryland, and subsequently had unprotected sex with them. However, he did not tell them he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
One of the victims told her story to the Washington Post. She and Cleaves had sex after meeting the bar on July 25, 2014. He ended up staying for a few days at her apartment, during which time she discovered a document in his suitcase which revealed him to be HIV-positive.
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Although six months of blood tests have come back negative for HIV, the woman said that the continued uncertainty has been a source of terrible emotional trauma for her.
On March 6, she testified in court about what Cleaves had done to her, after which Montgomery Circuit Judge Joseph M. Quirk sentenced him to 18 months in jail.
The defendant's attorney argued that his client had been taking antiretroviral drugs that greatly reduce the risk of spreading the virus. The argument ultimately had some effect, and a plea deal was reached.
The HIV-related counts, which make it illegal to "knowingly transfer or attempt to transfer" HIV to another person, were dropped, and Cleaves pleaded guilty to the lesser counts of reckless endangerment. “I don’t think I can explain how extremely sorry I am for the victims,” he said in a statement to the court.
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Thirty-four U.S. states and territories have criminal statutes that allow prosecutions for allegations of non-disclosure, exposure and (although not required) transmission of the HIV virus, reports the London-based organization NAM. Prosecutions have occurred in at least 39 states under HIV-specific criminal laws or general criminal laws. Most of these laws treat HIV exposure as a felony, and some of the people convicted under such laws have received sentences of 30 years or more.
In one notable case in 2008, a Texas jury convicted an HIV-positive man to 35 years in jail after concluding that his saliva was a "deadly weapon."
Sources: The Washington Post, NAM / Photo Credit: Montgomery County Police Department via The Washington Post