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.

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