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Tuesday, 20 July 2010

US: Nushawn Williams "poster child" of newly proposed HIV-specific law faces a lifetime of civil confinement (update 2)

Update: July 20th
A New York Supreme Court judge in Buffalo has dismissed Nushawn Williams's petition for release and ruled he could remain in jail while awaiting his October trial under New York's Civil Confinement Law.

Update: May 11th

No big surprise, but a New York State Supreme Court judge has ruled that Nushawn Williams "poses a danger to society and as a result, must remain behind bars even though his sentence is complete."

State Supreme Court Justice John Michalski said there is probable cause that Williams suffers from a "sexual abnormality" that would pose a danger to society.

With the ruling, Williams could now face a trial to determine his future status.

Both sides are due back in court next month as they hold arguments over a defense motion to dismiss the case.

Under a civil law, passed in 2007, the state can lock up a sex offender indefinitely if it proves the person has a mental abnormality and is likely to offend again.

Original post: April 23rd

The impact of the 1997 Nushawn Williams case continues to reverberate in New York. Following last year's denied request for parole, there are now plans to keep him locked up forever by New York's Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

The New York Times reported on April 13th

Mr. Williams, 33, was due to be released on Tuesday after serving his maximum sentence of 12 years, but Mr. Cuomo’s office is seeking to keep him in custody under a three-year-old state law that permits the civil confinement of sex offenders. Last Friday, a state judge in Buffalo, near where Mr. Williams has been jailed, ordered that he remain in custody pending the outcome of a civil confinement proceeding.
Now, State Senator Cathy Young of Olean is not only urging Cuomo to keep Williams in civil confinement but also proposing a new HIV-specific law for New York using Williams as a "poster child". Back in February 2009, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota teamed up with Parents for Megan's Law to advocate for the same thing.

Here is Senator Young's press release, featuring her proposed law in full.

Senator Cathy Young (R,I,C – Olean) today renewed her call for a law making it a crime to knowingly spread the deadly HIV/AIDS virus to other unsuspecting people. Senator Young’s announcement comes in the wake of news that Nushawn Williams, the man who caused an AIDS epidemic in Chautauqua County in the 1990s, had completed his prison sentence and could be released to the public.

Senator Young also called on New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to rigorously fight to ensure that Williams remains confined in a psychiatric facility and is not let back out into the community.

“People who knowingly use HIV/AIDS as a deadly weapon by purposely exposing others to the disease should be severely punished. This proposed law would provide the appropriate penalties for those who callously put other people’s lives in jeopardy, and will help further prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS by keeping victims and prison supervisors informed when inmates test positive for the virus.”

State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has announced that he is seeking, under New York’s Sex Offender Management Act, to have Williams confined in a state-operated psychiatric facility.

Senator Young said, “Nushawn Williams is the poster child for why we need a civil confinement law in New York State. I urge Attorney General Cuomo to do everything in his power to ensure that Williams remains confined. This deadly predator must not be returned to society.”

Senator Young’s legislation would create the crimes of reckless endangerment of the public health in the 1st and 2nd degrees for people who test positive for HIV/AIDS and then recklessly engage in conduct which results in transmission of HIV/AIDS to another unsuspecting person or puts that person at substantial risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

The bill would also, among other provisions, required persons charged with a sex offense or reckless endangerment of the public health to be tested for HIV/AIDS and the results to be available to the victim (s) upon request.

The announcement in the fall of 1997, that Nushawn Williams had been informed of his HIV-positive status but continued to have unprotected sex with numerous women and underage girls in Chautauqua County, shocked the state and the nation. Williams was directly responsible for infecting thirteen victims statewide with HIV, two of whom passed on the virus to their children.

Williams completed his 12-year sentence for reckless endangerment and two counts of statutory rape last Tuesday, but continues to be held at Wende Correctional Facility in Alden.

While in prison, Williams tossed his HIV-tainted urine at another inmate, said he wanted to infect more women with HIV when he is released, fought with other prisoners, engaged in gang activity, and arranged to have drugs smuggled in and used them. He did not complete any sex offender or drug treatment programs.

In a required pre-release psychiatric evaluation, Williams was found to be antisocial, psychopathic, lacking in remorse and “prone to further sexual contact with underage individuals because of deficits in his emotional capacity to understand why this is wrong.”

Specifically, Senator Young’s legislation (S. 3407) would:

- Create the crime of reckless endangerment of the public health in the 1st degree, a class B felony, for those who are aware that they have tested positive for HIV/AIDS and then recklessly engage in conduct which results in transmission of the virus to another person who is unaware of the condition. Also creates the crime or reckless endangerment of the public health in the 2nd degree, a class C felony, for those who have tested positive and then engage in conduct which creates a substantial risk of the transmission of HIV/AIDS to another unwitting person;

- Create a class E felony for providing false information or statement regarding HIV status to a health care provider;

- Require all currently incarcerated persons and persons newly entering a correctional

facility be tested for the HIV virus;

- Provide that a person charged with a sex offense under article 130 of the State Penal Law or reckless endangerment in the 1st or 2nd degrees must be tested for HIV and the results of the test made available to the victim (s) and defendant upon request;

- Provide that upon the diagnosis of an inmate with HIV/AIDS, notice of the diagnosis must be provided to corrections personnel and others involved in the supervision and care of the inmate to that they can take appropriate measure to protect themselves and other inmates from exposure.

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