MN Court Overturns Gay Man’s Conviction For HIV Transmission

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of an HIV-positive man who was accused of first degree assault for passing the virus to another man through unprotected sex.

Last fall, Daniel James Rick, 31, was found guilty under a Minnesota law making it a crime to knowingly transfer a communicable disease like HIV through “sexual penetration with another person” without informing the partner of their status.

The judge reversed Rick’s conviction because he had proven he disclosed his HIV-positive status before engaging in sex with his alleged victim.

HIV-transmission laws are highly controversial for several reasons: It’s almost impossible to prove whether someone has disclosed their status, sometimes consent isn’t accepted as a defense, and in some instances even using a condom won’t prevent prosecution. Others question whether such laws send HIV-positive people into the closet for fear of being accused of wrongdoing.

Some people see such laws as a reason not to get tested.

Ultimately, the overturning of this conviction may set an important, beneficial precedent. But don’t think he’s some Rosa Parks: Rick faces more charges for sleeping with other men unaware of his status, including one case allegedly involving date rape and another involving a minor:

Now a second man has come forward, saying he and his boyfriend met Rick online.

Robert O’Riley says just weeks after their sexual encounter, he came down with flu-like symptoms, and after testing positive for HIV his doctor told him he likely contracted it in the past few weeks. But it took a television report, with Rick’s photo on screen, for O’Riley to learn his alleged infector’s true identity.

There are separate charges involving Rick and a 15-year-old boy who sneaked out of his house to have sex with Rick.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman says he plans to appeal the decision: “Mr Rick is a very dangerous man, who knew he was HIV positive, running around and giving it to people.”