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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
March 25, 2005

Not saying he is HIV+ gets man charged with felony

Former boyfriend sought prosecution for
a year after he became positive

Pomeroy, Ohio--A grand jury in this Ohio River town indicted a gay man for failing to tell a sexual partner that he is HIV positive on February 17. He was arrested by Meigs County sheriff�s deputies the next day.

Larry Drake, 34, was charged with felonious assault for allegedly infecting a former boyfriend, Steve Lantz, 36, with HIV while the two lived together. Lantz says Drake did not disclose his HIV status.

Drake was arraigned March 1 and his trial is set for July 26. He is charged with a second-degree felony, which could mean two to eight years in jail if convicted. He is currently out on bond.

Drake was charged under Ohio�s controversial 2000 law requiring people who �knowingly� have HIV to disclose their status to their sexual partners �prior to engaging in the sexual conduct.�

The crime becomes a first-degree felony if the victim is a police officer, a measure apparently added with undercover park sex �stings� in mind.

The law is vigorously opposed by AIDS activists who say that it puts more people at risk by discouraging HIV tests among those who engage in the riskiest behaviors.

�Past experience has proven that criminalization of sexual activity is not an effective strategy for protecting the public health, and indeed may endanger the public health by creating a false sense of security,� wrote AIDS prevention activist John Corlett of Cleveland during the bill�s debate.

�The proposed law does not criminalize unprotected sexual activity that results in the actual transmission of HIV,� Corlett continued. �Instead, it criminalizes the knowledge of HIV status in combination with sexual conduct.�

AIDS prevention programs teach people to treat all partners as though they are HIV positive.

It is also not clear if the law would be upheld by a court given the protection of people with HIV under the federal Americans with Disabilies Act.

Dave Warner, who is an investigator for the Meigs County prosecutor, said the indictment came after the grand jury heard testimony from several witnesses.

Lantz indicated he was one of those witnesses.

Public Defender Christopher Tenoglia, who represents Drake, declined comment for this report.

Lantz said he and Drake lived together at Lantz�s home in 2003, and that Drake did not tell him he was 12 years HIV positive until after four months into that arrangement.

�After that, we played much different,� said Lantz, adding that after he tested positive, it had been determined that he became infected between May and September of that year.

According to Lantz, Drake moved out January 1, 2004 after learning of Lantz�s seroconversion.

Lantz fears Drake will infect others and aggressively sought his prosecution for a year after learning of the law.

�I have witnesses who sat at the park watching him pick people up,� said Lantz.

Lantz contacted AIDS organizations across the state and public officials seeking help. He also contacted the Gay People�s Chronicle several times beginning a year ago wanting the matter investigated, and was told that until charges were filed, it could not be reported as news.

Lantz said the county prosecutor was not helpful until he contacted his member of Congress, Rep. Ted Strickland, whom he admits he threatened to embarrass at an HRC dinner in Columbus if he did not intervene.

Lantz also has harsh words for the AIDS service organizations of Ohio, especially the Ohio AIDS Coalition.

�These organizations do not want this law used,� said Lantz. �It makes me ashamed of my community. My next move is to shed light on HIV organizations who don�t care about their own people.�

�[Drake] was not a trick,� said Lantz. �I loved him. If he had been a trick I would have kicked myself in the ass and called it a day.�

�You cannot abuse [the felonious assault law]� said Lantz. �It�s way too difficult to prove.�

Lantz said he expects Drake to try to plea bargain the case and has a list of 40 things he wants from Drake including $10,000 for missed work. He wants his former boyfriend to register as a sex offender, allowing his house and computer to be checked regularly for sexual liasons.

The HIV felony law does not require someone convicted of it to register as a sex offender.

Ohio AIDS Coalition director Kevin Sullivan said, �Steve Lantz doesn�t understand that we�re not siding with him because of the big picture. This is not a good law.�

�I am also worried about motives,� said Sullivan. �I don�t think it should be used for revenge purposes.�

�The message this sends is that someone else is always responsible for actions,� said Sullivan, �that HIV prevention is everyone else�s responsibility. That burden does not always need to always come down on HIV positive people.�

 

 

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