Supreme Court Overturns Iowa Man’s HIV Conviction

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Supreme Court of Iowa has ruled in favor of Iowa resident Nick Rhoades.

Rhoades was arrested in 2008 after having sex with a man he met online. Rhoades did not inform the man that he was HIV positive. The man ultimately did not contract HIV.  In his original trial in 2009 an attorney advised Rhoades to plead guilty instead of fighting the case. Rhoades was sentenced to 25 years in prison, a sentence that was later reduced to five years probation.

Rhoades asked for a re-trial, on the basis he received bad legal advice. The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the conviction.  Friday The Iowa Supreme Court  overturned Rhoades conviction saying he was given bad legal advice and never should have plead guilty.

“This morning when we found out about the Supreme Court decision we were thrilled,” says Donna Red Wing with One Iowa.

Red Wing says it’s one more example of the state supporting decriminalizing HIV.

“In the last month we’ve had our HIV criminalization law changed and updated, and now The Supreme Court made such an extraordinary decision,” says Red Wing.

Last week Governor Brandstad signed new legislation regarding the state’s HIV Law.

It now falls under a tiered system and includes other transmitted diseaese like hepititis and tuberculosis.

Red Wings says that paired with the Supreme Court ruling gives hope to those living with HIV and AIDS in Iowa.

“I think what they’ve seen is both a law and Supreme Court decision that has kept up with the times and recognized the reality of medicine and science and that is a good thing,” says Red Wing.

Red Wing says it also provides a positive example for other states.

“For people living across the country living in states that still criminalize HIV I think what we offer them in Iowa is hope for the future.”

A statement was released by Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal, the firm representing Rhoades.

“We applaud the Court for applying the law in light of current medical understanding of how HIV is and is not transmitted.  An individual who takes precautions to prevent transmission should not be considered a criminal for choosing to be sexually active, and we are very pleased that the Court agrees.”

The case now goes back to Black Hawk County District Court where prosecutors could re-try the case.

5 comments

  • Joe

    Yep, taking someone else’s life into YOUR hands without telling them just so you can have a little fun. How it can be such a ‘milestone’ that we are no longer convicting this is beyond me.
    Let’s just give toddlers and children loaded guns to play with….no guarantee anyone will die, so, it’s ok, right?

  • Sue

    I agree. I feel horrible for people who have AIDS or are HIV positive. Its very sad. Just like cancer, heart conditions, extreme diabetes, parkinsons, dementia…..ANY lifelong, debilitating disease is sad and I have a lot of sympathy and compassion for ANYONE suffering from them.
    I do not have any sympathy or compassion for someone who would knowingly risk spreading a disease like that to someone else, without that person’s knowledge or permission, just for their own entertainment.

  • CalmDown

    Google his name and you can find a much better, much more in depth article from CNN, which explains why this is outdated fear mongering madness.

  • Sue

    Nope, sorry, CalmDown, even after reading the CNN article, I think it needs to be law that you disclose if you are HIV positive. Women are impregnated by men wearing condoms, they fail. For all you know, he’d been carrying that condom around in his pocket for years. LIving with HIV or AIDS is awful. I wouldn’t think that a person who is already living with it themselves would wish it on someone else. Doesn’t his partner deserve the respect of knowing that he could possibly die from this encounter and deciding if it is worth the risk or not? Why do you have the right to take that choice away from me? Men get up in arms when women get pregnant ‘accidently’ because they have taken the choice away from the man as to whether or not he wants to raise a child. Rhoades took the choice away from his partner as to whether or not he was willing to risk becoming HIV positive.

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