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Saturday 30 May 2009

US: Texan man found guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for reckless HIV transmission

A Texas jury has found 53 year-old Philippe Padieu of Frisco, Texas, guilty of six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He is the sixteenth person with HIV in Texas to be successfully prosecuted for either HIV exposure or transmission since 1997.

Update: May 30th.

Original posting, from May 28th, below:

Mr Padieu was arrested in July 2007 after two women went to police after testing HIV-positive . The police investigation led to four further complainants.

The case has had widespread media coverage throughout the United States, highlighted in today's Dallas Morning News story summarising the trial.
After five hours of deliberations, the [jury's] guilty verdicts were read in a large ceremonial courtroom where the trial was moved to accommodate local and national TV crews covering the case, including ABC's 20/20.
Prosecutors likened Mr Padieu to a "ticking time bomb, a lethal weapon."
"It's as if he took a gun and shot all of them," prosecutor Lisa King said during closing arguments earlier in the day. "But a gunshot wound heals. In this case, he gave them a virus that causes a disease that may well kill them."

[Assistant District Attorney Curtis] Howard said, Padieu is "a ticking time bomb, he's a lethal weapon," and he likened Padieu to Typhoid Mary. He told jurors that Padieu broke the law by knowingly, recklessly and intentionally having sex with multiple women, exposing them to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, without telling them.
His defence attorny, Bennie House, argued that Mr Padieu was in denial and that the six female complainants should have protected themselves knowing that unprotected sex can result in the transmission of sexually transmitted infections.
"They asked Mr. Padieu if he was safe, he said yes," said House. "He's in denial." He added, "Mr. Padieu is not a predator. ... He likes sex...House said his client's partners had a responsibility to practice safe sex. "They should have invoked a mantra – no glove, no love," House said. "If that didn't happen, they should walk out."
Another of Mr Padieu's defence lawyer, George A. Giles, argued - rather unsuccessfully given the many previous Texan convictions for HIV-positive bodily fluids being classed as deadly weapons, including Willy Campbell, who was sentenced to 35 years for spitting at a cop – that Texan law did not specifically say that his client had committed aggravated assault.
[He said that] what Padieu did does not constitute aggravated assault. He suggested that prosecutors go to Austin to lobby for changes in the law if they want to use the criminal code to address the practice of unsafe sex by someone with HIV. "When does he have to tell them or anybody he's got a disease?" Giles said.
However, since the law in Texas is not HIV-specific, the bar was set much higher for the prosecution to prove that Mr Padieu actually infected the six women. They used one of the US's foremost experts in HIV forensics, Dr Michael L Metzker, of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, to testify that Mr Padieu's virus was extremely similar to that of the six women, although he came to a conclusion that may not have been totally scientific.

The news website of NBC Dallas Fort/Worth reported:
He said he used a national database of HIV positive blood samples and compared the samples taken from Padieu and his six alleged victims. In what was called a blind study, Metzker never knew who each sample belonged to.

"I wanted anonymous samples," he said. "I did not want to know the identity of any of the individuals, we treated them all equally, generated the data, generated the alignments."

Metzker said Padieu is the source of his accusers' infection.

"One sample stood out as the potential source of most, if not all, of the other samples," he explained.

However, Padieu's attorneys got Metzker to admit that the study reaches a conclusion, but cannot be called an absolute fact.

The defense is focusing on the fact that HIV can mutate and change over time.

Mr Padieu will be sentenced tomorrow (Friday May 29th). He faces sentencing that ranges from five to 99 years in prison on each of the six counts.



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