June 23, 2012

June 23, 2012
St. Louis Mardi Gras Couple Guilty of
HIV Felony Seek New Trial

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Saturday and I hope you had a safe and great week. It is another busy week for Dab the AIDS Bear and me. The bear is attending several different events this weekend so stay tuned for future slide shows and pictures from the events.

There has been a huge increase in convictions and press about HIV positive people being prosecuted for sleeping with HIV negative people even if the negative person does not test HIV positive or if there was only safer sex and condom use.

Today, I will blog about the latest article I read about another prosecution of people with HIV. One difference with this prosecution is one of the two people prosecuted is not HIV positive but knew her boyfriend was.

There was nothing inherently illegal about Kerry Lynn Hanson, 48, having sex with an 18-year-old woman while his and her respective partners looked on. But his activities during Soulard's 2010 Mardi Gras were in fact criminal, jurors decided Monday, because he knew he was HIV-positive and didn't tell her.

A weeklong trial in St. Louis Circuit Court also resulted in conviction of Hanson's girlfriend, Angela Marie Niemczyk, who was 41 at the time of the party, because she knew of Hanson's status and suggested the foursome.

The charge for both was knowingly exposing another person to HIV, a felony that carries a possible term of up to 15 years in prison. They are free on bail pending sentencing July 27.

Lawyers for Hanson, a manufacturer's representative from Lake Saint Louis, and Niemczyk, a beautician from St. Charles, said they were disappointed with the verdict and plan to seek a new trial.

The 18-year-old never contracted the HIV virus, but that didn't matter under the statute.

The let-loose atmosphere of Mardi Gras here was on full display during the trial, as lawyers argued over who did what and with whom at the party on Feb. 13, 2010.

According to testimony, the 18-year-old kissed Niemczyk on the promise of Mardi Gras beads. Witnesses said Niemczyk proposed moving away from the eyes of the 20 to 30 revelers who were gathered in a house in the 900 block of Allen Avenue, to where the two women could find more privacy with their boyfriends.

Lawyers for Hanson and Niemczyk argued in court that the behavior did not go as far as portrayed. They suggested the 18-year-old lied about having sex with Hanson that night to get back at her boyfriend, then 28, for making sexual comments about Niemczyk.

Niemczyk, who has dated Hanson since summer 2009, about the time he found out he was HIV-positive, is not infected, her attorney said.

Art Margulis, representing Hanson, said the 18-year-old learned days after the encounter that Hanson was infected but waited weeks to be tested. The lawyer said she went to police only after her boyfriend, with whom she had sex after that night, threatened to report it himself.

"What person, under those circumstances, doesn't get a test as soon as possible?" Margulis asked. "Our position is such exposure never occurred."

William Goldstein, a lawyer for Niemczyk, challenged the woman's credibility. He said she admitted drinking nine beers and used hallucinogenic mushrooms, and he said her boyfriend gave inconsistent versions of what happened.

Assistant Circuit Attorney Natalie Warner scolded Goldstein for that approach, saying it's why victims are afraid to come forward.

She said Hanson and Niemczyk acted with a "sense of entitlement" without regard for the risk, then tried to cover it up because they were afraid of people knowing Hanson was HIV-positive.

Now you know the rest of the story. Luckily, I have only been having sex with HIV positive men since I found out my status in 1982.

So if you are HIV positive, I would even suggest going as far as having someone signing a form that they know you HIV status before you have sex as a precaution to these nightmares.

Hope you have a safe and great Saturday!

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab