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Monday 26 November 2007

Canada: Winnipeg HIV exposure/transmission trial halted

Last week, Canadian media reported on the trial of an HIV-positive man accused of aggravated sexual assault following complaints from three women that he did not disclose his HIV status to them before sex: one woman claims to have been infected by the man. At the end of prosecution's case, however, the trial was halted after it was alleged that public health nurses acted inappropriately in the handling of his case. I include four stories about the trial in reverse chronological order.

Sex-assault trial of HIV-positive man stalls

The case of a Winnipeg man accused of failing to divulge his HIV-positive status before engaging in unprotected sex with several women has hit a potentially lengthy roadblock.

The 35-year-old man, who cannot be named under a court order to protect the identities of his alleged victims, has been charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault.

The Crown had closed its case Wednesday, after the court heard from three women — one of whom is now HIV positive — who testified the accused lied about or hid his HIV-positive status from them.

Defence lawyer Sarah Innis was considering calling the defendant as a witness, but raised concerns about the nature of questions he could face in cross-examination about conversations he had with public health nurses.

The court expects hearings on the matter to take at least three days. Finding time for the judge and both sides to appear in court for the hearings appears to be a problem.

Innis may seek an interim release for the accused man, who has been in pre-trial custody for nearly two years, while the court system tries to settle on a date for the hearings.

New factor halts trial case of accused HIV-positive man


The case of an HIV-positive Winnipeg man accused of not disclosing his infection to several sex partners came to an abrupt halt yesterday, following revelations of discussions the accused had with public health officials.

The development had lawyers scrambling to find alternative court dates to wrap up the trial, which had been scheduled for just one week.

Court heard the accused, who cannot be named to protect the identities of his alleged victims, is weighing a decision to testify in his own defence. If that happens, Crown attorney Jill Duncan said she will want to cross-examine him on discussions he had with the public health nurse.

Defence lawyer Sarah Inness said she would object to that line of questioning "on the grounds his discussions with the public health nurse were involuntary."

It is expected at least three more days would be required to hear the testimony -- time that is unavailable until well into the new year.

Inness said she will now therefore be seeking bail for her client, who has been in custody for two years.

Justice Nathan Nurgitz adjourned the case to next month's assignment court to set new trial dates.

The 33-year-old accused is charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault involving three victims between 2002 and 2005.

At trial this week, three women testified they engaged in unprotected sex with the man, who allegedly never disclosed he was HIV-positive.

One woman testified she contracted HIV and continued to have unprotected sex with the man, rather than be alone.

Another woman, 17 at the time she dated the man in 2003, told court she tried to mow him down with her car after learning he had exposed her to HIV.

"I was trying to kill him," the now 21-year-old woman testified. "I was going to run him over, put the car into reverse and run over him again to make sure he was dead."

The man escaped unharmed after she chased him onto a sidewalk and blew a tire.

'Wanted to be with him,' court told.
Continued unprotected sex with HIV-positive man

A Winnipeg woman continued to have unprotected sex with an HIV-positive man even after learning she had contracted the virus herself, a court was told yesterday.

"I wanted to be with him, to be with somebody that is positive for HIV," the 26-year-old woman told court.

The man, who cannot be named, is on trial charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault involving three women between 2002 and 2005.

He is accused of having unprotected sex with the women without disclosing his HIV-positive status.

One woman told court yesterday she began a sexual relationship with the accused after meeting him three years ago at the Gordon Downtowner Hotel.

The woman said she and the accused were walking in Portage Place some months later when she was approached by another woman who asked if she was "going out" with the man.

"She told me to get tested for HIV because he has HIV," the woman said. "I thought she was lying, just a rumour, so she could be with him."

The man denied he was HIV-positive and said the other woman was lying, the woman told court.

"I believed him," she said.

The woman said she was tested sometime later for HIV as part of her annual check-up. She said the first test came back negative but a second test was positive for the virus.

The woman said it was some time before she told the accused she was HIV-positive.

"I wanted to let it absorb, think about what happened," she said. "I did something wrong that should never have happened ... I guess people learn from their mistakes by doing something and now I have to suffer for what I have."

The woman admitted she suspected the accused was seeing other women but said she wasn't upset as their relationship was not serious.

Defence lawyer Sarah Inness argued her client told the woman he was HIV-positive before they had sex and she was aware of rumours he carried the virus.

The Crown is expected to wrap up its case this morning with closing arguments to follow as early as this afternoon.

Man lied about HIV status, 2nd woman tells Winnipeg court

CBC News

A second Winnipeg woman testified on Tuesday that a man on trial for sexual assault failed to divulge his HIV-positive status before engaging in unprotected sex with her.

The man, who cannot be named under court order to protect the identities of his alleged victims, has been charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault.

The second woman told the Court of Queen's Bench on Tuesday that she met the accused in a Winnipeg mall during the winter of 2003. She was 17 years old; he was 29.

They had unprotected sex many times, the woman said, and she became pregnant with his child the following March.

While on vacation, the woman received a phone call from the accused, during which he told her he was infected with gonorrhoea and syphilis and was HIV-positive.

Following this revelation, the woman publicly threatened to kill the man and his family and take her own life. She was arrested and charged with uttering threats.

She eventually had a miscarriage, she told the court. She has since tested negative for HIV.

The woman also described to the court her battle to inform the public about the accused's HIV-positive status.

She contacted a public health nurse, the police and the office of the province's ombudsman, she testified. She even planned to post photos of the man in places he frequented, but said she was told that would violate his right to privacy.

In April of 2004, she saw the man at a Winnipeg nightclub and, in a rage, tried to run him over with a car. She pleaded guilty to charges of assault with a weapon and uttering threats and was sentenced to probation.

Son born in 2005

The trial heard from the first complainant on Monday. She told the court she had a rocky relationship with the accused beginning in 2000 and she had a baby fathered by him in 2005.

Soon after she became pregnant, the witness said, she found four containers of prescription drugs in a closet in an apartment. She later found out they were used to treat HIV.

The woman said she also heard from one of the man's ex-girlfriends, with whom he also had a child, that he was HIV-positive.

She confronted the accused, she said, but he denied having the virus. The woman believed him.

"I wanted to believe he wouldn't intentionally hurt me or the unborn child," she told the court.

In October 2005, the woman testified, she found an envelope from the St. Boniface Hospital in their apartment. Inside, she found a 14-page document indicating the man was part of an experimental HIV drug study at the hospital.

She would not have had sex with him if she'd known he was HIV-positive, she told the court.

Both she and her son, now two, have been tested for the virus. Both have tested negative, she said.

However, she phoned the police and made a complaint about the man. He was subsequently arrested.

Another witness in the case is expected to testify Wednesday.



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