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Prison for Man With H.I.V. Who Spit on a Police Officer




 

DALLAS - A homeless man who spit in the mouth and eye of a police officer and then taunted him, saying he was H.I.V. positive, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday for harassing a public servant with a deadly weapon: his saliva.

Because of the deadly weapon finding, the man, Willie Campbell, 42, of Dallas, will not be eligible for parole until he has served half his sentence.

In May 2006, a passer-by reported an unconscious man, Mr. Campbell, sprawled outside a downtown Dallas building. Mr. Campbell tried to fight paramedics and kicked the police officer who arrested him for public intoxication, prosecutors said.

The police reported that Mr. Campbell spat at an officer and said he had H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, as they struggled to move him to a squad car.

During the trial, Mr. Campbell, who prosecutors say has been H.I.V. positive since 1994, denied that he had resisted arrest or spit at an officer, his lawyer, Russell Henrichs, said Thursday.

Mr. Henrichs added that his client had been indicted under a habitual-offender statute that increased the penalty in his case to a minimum of 25 years in prison, because he had been convicted of attacking two other officers in a similar manner and biting two inmates, as well as more than two dozen other offenses.

"You can see why we thought that we needed to get this guy off the streets," said Jenni Morse, who prosecuted the current case.

None of the three officers attacked by Mr. Campbell contracted H.I.V., Ms. Morse said.

After Mr. Campbell was convicted by a jury, he shouted at the prosecutor and police officers, calling them liars and telling them to "rot in hell" for "railroading an innocent man." He was forced to listen to the rest of sentencing from a holding cell.

Mr. Campbell waived his right to appeal and is awaiting transfer from the Dallas jail to prison.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, H.I.V. is primarily spread through sexual contact or the exchange of blood. Although there have been rare cases of transmission through severe bites, "contact with saliva, tears or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of H.I.V.," the agency reports.

Lambda Legal, which advocates for people living with the virus, says saliva should not be considered a deadly weapon.

"There's still an incredible amount of ignorance about H.I.V. and how H.I.V. is or isn't transmitted," said Bebe Anderson, the organization's H.I.V. project director. "It's regrettable."



 


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Information in this article was accurate in May 16, 2008. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.