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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

US: Michigan strip club employee pleads 'no contest' to HIV non-disclosure (updated)

The 23 year-old Michigan woman named and shamed following her arrest along with five other employees of the Escape Reality strip club in May, has pleaded 'no-contest' to "one count of engaging in a sex act without informing her partner of her positive HIV status." Her real crimes were dealing drugs, but it is her HIV status that makes her so much more of a criminal in the State of Michigan's eyes.

There's definitely something very fishy about this case, which highlights how the police, courts and media conspire to make HIV-positive people appear to be far more dangerous to society than we actually are.

Orginally, the woman was charged with "three counts of engaging in sexual penetration without advising the partner that she has been diagnosed as being HIV positive" each of which can result in "up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000."

However, according to the South Bend Tribune the woman entered into a plea agreement that meant the mother of three faced lesser charges and "an 18-month cap on jail time".

As well as pleading 'no contest' to one count of engaging in an act of sexual penetration while failing to inform her partner she was HIV-positive, she pleaded guilty to four drug-related charges and one charge of "engaging in lewd and lascivious conduct."

Other drug charges were dropped under the plea agreement, as were two other counts of failure to inform partners of her HIV.
The article goes on to say that she and another woman "both performed sex acts on a confidential informant at the club."

However, the evidence presented to the court, via testimony from Detective Sgt. Dave Toxopeus, "a Dowagiac police officer working with the Cass County Sheriff Office's Narcotics Unit" does not support this statement. He actually testified that the confidential informant
told him she... provided him with lap dances during which she exposed private body parts and would stop just short of offering him the opportunity to engage in a sex act.
Let's just take a look at Michigan's HIV-specific law
“Sexual penetration” means sexual intercourse, cunnilingus, fellatio, anal intercourse, or any other intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person's body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person's body; emission of semen is not required.
Given the incredibly wide range of ways to break this stupid, discriminatory and out-of-date law, and the testimony that they didn't actually engage in a sex act, I'm guessing that, perhaps, she allowed the confidential informant to place his finger (or tongue?) on her clitoris or something equally as benign. She certainly didn't appear to do anything that risked the transmission of HIV. (And didn't he have a responsibility to protect himself anyway if he had gone 'all the way'?)

And although the police had engaged in a fishing expedition by naming the woman, and asking for "anyone with information related to this case" there appear to have been no further evidence that the woman had exposed anyone to HIV. Instead, she is treated like a pariah because of her HIV status.

A second report, from the Niles Daily Star, which erroneously states that the woman pleaded guilty to "five sex-related convictions" adds some drama to the court scene
[She] admitted she did not inform her male partners at the club that she was HIV-positive. She cried as she sat at the bench before Judge Michael Dodge and pleaded guilty to charges as follows: 1.) conspiracy to deliver or manufacture methamphetamine or ecstasy; 2.) delivery or manufacturing of methamphetamine or ecstasy; 3.) conspiracy to deliver or manufacture cocaine less than 50 grams; 4.) delivery or manufacturing cocaine less than 50 grams; and 5.) lewd and lascivious conduct.
The woman will be sentenced on Friday August 7th.

Update: September 22nd. She received a rather strange sentence - a mimum of 16 months but a maximum of 20 years, according to The Niles Daily Star.

Judge Michael Dodge sentenced Melissa Goodman, 24, of Elkhart, Ind. saying she had a plea agreement of 18 months. He told her she would have gone to prison for 30 months but with the sentence bargain the court could accept it or reject it.

He told her that her cooperation and Assistant Prosecutor Diab Rizk’s agreement of 16 months, the court will deviate from her guideline range. That was 30 to 50 months. Other related counts were dropped of the April 22 offense at the strip joint at Pleasant Lake, 68502 Dailey Road.

Rizik said Goodman performed serious actions and jeopardized a number of individuals. But she did agree to cooperate with criminal investigations. He said the prosecutor’s office believed 16 months was appropriate.

Defense attorney Dale Blunier said he appreciated the recommendations of the prosecutor and noted Goodman has no prior record. He said she is a 24-year-old single mother and was trying to support her children.

“She cares about her children and knows what she did was wrong. She does have HIV,” he said. She has changed her life and wants to finish her education and go to college to improve herself. Her children were taken away, and she is trying to get them back. He said she may be eligible for boot camp.

Goodman apologized to the public.



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