Bioterrorism Charge Against HIV-Positive Man Must Be Dropped, ACLU Tells Court

April 01, 2010

Detroit – A bioterrorism charge against an HIV-positive man accused of biting his neighbor should be dropped, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan told a Macomb County Circuit Court in a friend-of-the-court brief filed late yesterday afternoon.

“This state law was passed in reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing and is designed for incidents of bioterrorism. One does not become a bioterrorist because he has HIV,” said Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project staff attorney. “It’s outrageous and disingenuous to charge someone with this crime simply because of their HIV status. The promotion of myths and falsehoods through this prosecution will only further hurt and stigmatize people living with HIV.”

In October 2009, Daniel Allen of Clinton Township was involved in a physical altercation with his neighbor. Following the incident, he was arrested and charged with assault and battery. In addition, the Macomb County prosecutor added the bioterrorism charge of possession or use of a harmful device because Allen is HIV-positive and allegedly bit his neighbor.

In its brief, the ACLU of Michigan argued that that the charges are founded on baseless assumptions about how HIV is transmitted and that the Michigan terrorism statute was not designed to punish this sort of behavior.

In fact, State Representative Mark Meadows, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, stated in an interview with the Michigan Messenger that he does not believe the legislature had a neighborhood fight in mind when it drafted the terrorism laws and he called the prosecution “silly.” In addition, the ACLU contends that the prosecutor’s office has created a dangerous precedent in charging Allen with this crime and, although there may be sufficient evidence to charge him with assault, there is no evidence he should be charged with bioterrorism.

According to its 8-page brief, “The ACLU of Michigan believes that, to the best of its knowledge, this is the first time a terrorism law has been used in connection with an HIV-infected person’s prosecution. Not only is Michigan’s bioterrorism law being misapplied, but such charges by the Macomb Prosecuting Attorney’s office have the effect of demonizing people living with HIV, promoting both fear and ignorance regarding how HIV is transmitted and discriminating against people living with this virus.”

Furthermore, the ACLU reports that this prosecution advances medically inaccurate information about the transmission of HIV. According to the Center for Disease Control and other medical and scientific experts, the HIV virus cannot be spread by saliva unless it contains blood and that contact with saliva, tears and sweat alone has never been shown to transmit HIV.

To read the brief, click here.

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