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Iowa Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Not Disclosing His HIV Status

By Myles Helfand

May 20, 2009

Nick Clayton Rhoades, a 34-year-old HIV-positive man from Iowa, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of not disclosing his status to another man before having sex with him, according to the WCF Courier. There was no mention regarding whether protection was used. In addition to his lengthy sentence, Rhoades must register as a sex offender, enter a sex offender treatment program, face lifetime parole, pay court costs and restitution, and for the next five years avoid all contact with the man he exposed to HIV.

As Judge Bradley Harris pronounced Rhoades' sentence, the maximum possible for this class of crime, he said to Rhoades, "You don't look like most of our criminals that sit here, but the risk is still there, just like if you would have shot a gun." Rhoades himself concurred with this statement, saying that living with HIV was like "carrying a concealed weapon."

In a statement to the court, Rhoades' accuser, who ultimately tested negative for HIV, asserted that he "should have had the right to choose whether to be intimate with someone who was HIV positive." Instead, he said that Rhoades deliberately lied about having no sexually transmitted infections: "He lied online, and he also lied to me in person when I asked him directly if he was 'clean,'" the man said. Rhoades claimed that he didn't remember discussing his HIV status with the man, and that his judgment may have been clouded because he drank heavily and took prescription drugs before having sex.

Rhoades expressed remorse for exposing someone else to HIV without their knowledge. "I always wanted to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem," Rhoades said. "Clearly, I've fallen short in this case."

To read more about HIV-related legal case like this, read our interview with Catherine Hanssens, Esq., executive director of the Center for HIV Law and Policy.

As part of his ruling, District Court Judge Bradley J. Harris decreed that he could amend Rhoades' sentence any time in the next 12 months. If you'd like to offer your opinion to the judge, you can reach him at the State of Iowa District Court, 315 E. 5th Street, Waterloo, IA 50703 or try to reach him through this general e-mail address.

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