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
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."