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Guilty Plea in an H.I.V. Exposure Case




 

Nushawn Williams, the H.I.V.-positive man who is said to have knowingly infected more than a dozen girls and women in upstate New York with the virus, has pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment for having unprotected sex with a Bronx high school girl, the Bronx District Attorney said yesterday.

The felony charge of reckless endangerment was the first in New York City in an H.I.V.-related case, Bronx prosecutors have said, and the plea represents the first conviction of Mr. Williams, whose sexual spree brought national attention.

Mr. Williams is facing a statutory rape charge in upstate Chautauqua County, where he is accused of having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Investigators are also weighing whether they can charge him with assault in instances in which the authorities believe he knowingly infected women with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Investigators in Chautauqua County have said they have identified 48 sexual partners of Mr. Williams, 13 of whom have been confirmed to be H.I.V. positive.

The plea in the Bronx case is contingent on Mr. Williams reaching a plea agreement in Chautauqua County, his lawyer said last night.

Steven Reed, a spokesman for the Bronx District Attorney, confirmed last night that the plea could be withdrawn before sentencing, which is scheduled for April 8. James Subjack, the Chautauqua County District Attorney, was unavailable for comment, his office said.

The Bronx case stemmed from unprotected sex that Mr. Williams, now 21, had with a high school girl, who was then 15, in May of 1997. Mr. Williams had learned he was H.I.V.-positive and had been counseled about the dangers of transmitting the virus in September 1996, according to the District Attorney's office.

A grand jury indicted him in August 1998 on a charge of reckless endangerment in the first degree.

In a statement, Robert T. Johnson, the Bronx District Attorney, said Mr. Williams admitted that he had acted "under circumstances evincing a depraved indifference to human life" and had engaged in conduct that created a grave risk of death to another person. The grand jury had also indicted Mr. Williams on charges of attempted assault, sexual misconduct and endangering the welfare of a child, but by pleading guilty to the most serious charge, the other charges were dropped.

Under the agreement, Mr. Williams faces a sentence of two to six years. He received a one-to-three-year sentence in August 1998 for selling crack to an undercover officer in the Bronx in 1997.

Mr. Johnson's statement said the plea agreement with Mr. Williams was "based upon the nature and strength of the evidence, as well as concerns expressed by the victim and her family over the trauma of testifying at trial."

But Mr. Williams's lawyer, William Cember, said the deal depended on an agreement being reached in Chautauqua County on the statutory rape charge and any future charges. "It's conditional on him receiving a certain amount of time and no more in Chautauqua County," he said.

Mr. Cember also said he wanted to make sure that statements in Mr. Williams's guilty plea in the Bronx would not be used against him elsewhere if new charges arose. "Usually you're dealing with one incident, but this is an ongoing, rolling investigation," he said.

Mr. Reed said Mr. Williams did have the option of withdrawing the plea if he is not satisfied with the disposition of any charges in Chautauqua County, where Mr. Williams is being represented by the public defender's office. Mr. Reed said that there had been communication between the Bronx and Chautauqua district attorneys.

The deal prevents the possibility that Mr. Williams could face more serious felony charges in the Bronx. If the girl is H.I.V. positive, and if tests confirm that the strain of her virus matches Mr. Williams's, he could have faced assault charges for inflicting serious physical injury. He could then have faced a maximum prison term of 12 1/2 to 25 years. Mr. Reed declined to say yesterday whether the girl had been infected with H.I.V.

Mr. Williams had told officials that he had had sex with 50 to 75 women in New York City, but the District Attorney's office said yesterday that an investigation into whether Mr. Williams "had criminally engaged in unprotected sexual relations in the Bronx had turned up no additional victims."



 


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Information in this article was accurate in February 19, 1999. 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.