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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Australia: Man gets 4 1/2 years for impossible HIV transmission

Update: December 16th
Wepukhulu Zebtek was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison by Judge Allan Fenbury who "said the sentence would deter other carriers of the HIV virus from not informing their sexual partners". Mr Zebtek will be eligible for parole in two years and three months.

Original post: October 19th
Something is very wrong with this picture. In January 2008, I reported that a Perth man, Wepukhulu Zebtek, now 44, had been charged with aggravated sexual penetration after allegedly raping a woman and apparently infecting her with HIV, but that his lawyer had successfully argued that since the woman had tested HIV-positive three days following the alleged rape, his client could not possibly have infected the woman, because it takes much longer than three days to form antibodies to HIV.

Today, the AAP reports that Mr Zebtek has pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm after the charge of aggravated sexual penetration was finally dropped last month.

In other words, he has pleaded guilty to infecting a woman he couldn't have possibly infected, something that none of the various Australian news outlets, such as ABC news and Fox news mention.

In fact none the reports now mention that the sex they had was originally, allegedly non-consensual, but all the stories focus on the fact that Mr Zebtek didn't use a condom despite knowing he was HIV-positive. Only the AAP story also mentions that he didn't disclose before unprotected sex (which is an important element of the 'crime').

Obviously some deal has been done between his original arraignment and today's guilty plea, but I don't understand why Mr Zebtek would plead guilty to this charge, given the evidence that he couldn't possibly have infected the complainant.

I can only guess that it has something do with his previous history of unprotected sex, although this did not result in any criminal charges, according to the AAP story.

He had been counselled by the Victorian Department of Health in 2002 after a number of reports he was having unprotected sex with women other than his wife. Mr Sholz said Zebtek had denied the claims at the time but was given comprehensive and clear evidence about the risks of unprotected sex and was told he must practise safe sex. Victorian authorities closed his file after 2004 and Zebtek moved to W[estern] A[ustralia].
Mr Zebtek has been released on bail until his sentencing in December, when he faces up to ten years in prison.

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