MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Hennepin County judge sentenced Monday a man who was convicted of having unprotected sex knowing all the while he was HIV-positive.
This is the first case of knowingly transferring an infectious disease that has successfully been prosecuted in Minnesota. But that victory may have been overshadowed by the sentence the judge handed down.
The county judged sentenced 30-year-old Daniel Rick to 180 days in a workhouse and five years probation, even though the guidelines for first-degree assault carry the penalty for 49 months in prison.
“Rarely do we express our disappointment,” said Hennepin County attorney Michael Freeman. “We are doing so today.”
Freeman said the judge gave out too mild of a sentence.
Rick was convicted of the attempted transfer of sperm to another individual, but his attorney, Landon Ascheman, said he was convicted for being HIV positive and not wearing a condom when having sex.
“The jury found that the state did not prove that that individual was unaware that he was HIV positive. So, in other words, Mr. Rick did tell the other party that he was HIV-positive,” Ascheman said.
Ascheman is challenging the constitutionality of the statute that led to his client’s conviction. He said that because of the way the statute is written, it convicts anyone who is HIV-positive for having sex.
“If there are two individuals who … both have HIV, they can both be convicted for having unprotected sex according to the interpretation of this statute.”
Freeman, on the other hand, said the statute is constitutional and that the legislature would not have passed it otherwise. He also noted that it exists in other states.
Rick left the courtroom a free man Monday as his attorney is appealing the conviction. Ascheman has 90 days to file his appeal. During that time Rick is required to complete 60 of his 120 hours of assigned community service.
At the time of writing, there are two similar cases pending in Hennepin County against Rick involving three different people.