A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has found Charles Mzite, 36, guilty of four counts of aggravated sexual assault for having unprotected sex with four women from Victoria, BC, without disclosing his HIV status. One of the women has since tested HIV-positive.
Mr Mzite, a musician, was arrested in September 2007, six years after he moved to Canada from Zimbabwe.
According to the Vancouver Sun:
The main issue of his trial, which began in November, was knowledge. When did he first learn he was HIV positive? Did he knowingly spread HIV to a young single mother who is now facing an uncertain future? From the first day of his trial, when he stood in the prisoners’ dock and entered four pleas of “not guilty,” Mzite vigorously denied knowing until late 2004 that he was infected with the HIV virus. The Crown, on the other hand, argued Mzite knew he was HIV positive since 1995 and preyed on vulnerable women. During the trial, all four women testified they would never had sex, let alone unprotected sex, with Mzite if they’d known he was HIV positive.Further details of the trial were reported in this Calgary Herald article:
Mzite has been charged with having unprotected sex with four women, between May 2001 and November 2005, without telling them he is HIV positive. Mzite admits he had unprotected sex with all four while he was infected with HIV, but sexual contact with two women took place before Nov. 18, 2004, his lawyer Martin Allen argued.And, according to this report in The Times Colonist, a voir dire was held in December to decide whether statements Mzite made while in police custody were admissible in court.
Mzite had sex with the third woman before and after he tested positive. After the result, he informed her and used condoms. The fourth woman - who has tested positive for HIV antibodies - was with Mzite when he learned he was HIV positive, said Allen.
Mzite testified that he had six negative HIV tests in Zimbabwe. A few months after arriving in Victoria in May 2001, Mzite was tested for STDs and HIV at the Cook Street Clinic. The clinic phoned Mzite and told him his results were fine but he needed to come in for counselling. Although, Mzite had tested positive for HIV, the clinic did not give him that information over the phone. Mzite didn’t go back for counselling and never picked up his positive result.
“There cannot reasonably be a finding that he either had knowledge or was wilfully blind after August 2001,” said Allen.
Similarly, Mzite’s HIV status slipped through the cracks of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. In 2001, immigrants and refugees planning to stay in Canada for more than six months were required to undergo a full medical examination and testing for sexually transmitted diseases - but not HIV - after they arrived. HIV testing became mandatory for people moving to Canada in January 2002.
Mzite had the required medical exam and blood work - without HIV testing - on Dec. 7, 2001. Although he believed his medical included an HIV test, it did not, said Allen.
Allen took issue with the credibility of the alleged victims and with an interview by Victoria police Sgt. Scott McGregor. Allen said his client sank into despair after being told by the officer he would be dead in a year or two.
Despite receiving explicit instructions from a legal aid lawyer not to talk to police about the charges against him, Charles Mzite found himself answering a Victoria police detective about his HIV status.
He allegedly stated he had known he had been positive since 1995, and that is probably why Justice Robert Johnston ruled yesterday that "the Crown had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mzite knew he was HIV positive and that he either denied or failed to disclose his status to his four victims, exposing them to the risk of serious bodily harm."
A date for Mr Mzite’s sentencing hearing will be set tomorrow.