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Man with AIDS virus faces charge of intent to kill in alleged rape of boy

A Carroll County man who has the AIDS virus has been accused of raping his 8-year-old step-grandson, prompting police to charge the man with assault with intent to murder.

This is the first time that Carroll County prosecutors have used the charge against someone they say knew he was carrying the immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. It is one of a handful of such cases in Maryland.

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"He knew before he married the boy's grandmother -- he knew that he was HIV-positive," said state police Tfc. Joseph M. Newcomer, a sex abuse investigator for the Carroll County Child Abuse and Sexual Assault unit who filed the charges. "This can be a deadly disease, and he could have given it to the kid."

The 46-year-old man, who is not being named by The Sun in order to shield the identity of his accuser, faces 11 sexual abuse charges.

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The boy has been tested for HIV, Trooper Newcomer said, but the results of the test aren't yet known. He will be tested again in about six months, then again in about a year, the trooper said.

"He didn't abuse the boy. He insists he didn't do anything to him," said his lawyer, Judith S. Stainbrook of Westminster. "He adamantly denies the allegations."

The man married the boy's grandmother in September, Ms. Stainbrook said. She said the two had known each other for some time, and the man proposed marriage so that when he dies of AIDS, his wife would be the beneficiary of his life insurance policies.

"There was domestic trouble from the start," Ms. Stainbrook said.

Trooper Newcomer's charging documents show that the woman acknowledged that she and her husband were contemplating a separation. Attempts to reach the boy's grandmother were unsuccessful.

Since his Nov. 19 arrest, the man's lawyers have twice asked for reduction of his $100,000 bail so that he could be freed from the Carroll County Jail pending trial.

"He's being treated like this simply because he has HIV," Ms. Stainbrook said.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys say charges such as attempted murder and assault with intent to murder are becoming more common in cases involving people infected with HIV, nationally and in Maryland.

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"This really is an area that is on the cutting edge of the law," said Margaret C. Fine, a Baltimore attorney who specializes in AIDS-related law.

Kathi Hill, Carroll's chief sex crimes prosecutor, said the case marks the first time in the county that charges of intent to murder have been levied because of an HIV infection.

"It's going to be tough to prove, because we'd have to show a jury that the man knew what he was doing and had the potential to kill," she said.

Ms. Hill often decides what charges to file in sex-crime cases, but she said in this case, the decision was made by the investigators.

According to charging documents filed in Carroll District Court, the man's accuser wrote a note to his mother in which he described an afternoon of sex acts in the man's attic. The boy told police that he had been assaulted for four hours.

"I tried to get away, but the door was locked from outside," the boy told officers. "I hate him. He should go to the electric chair."

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Some experts in AIDS-related law say attempted murder charges can be applied unreasonably, particularly in cases involving spitting or throwing blood.

"But my opinion is that people who know they have HIV disease have an obligation of not putting others in direct risk of contracting the disease," said Michael Carlis, the senior attorney with Health Education Resource Organization (HERO) in Baltimore.

"People have an obligation to disclose that to a sex partner. In a hypothetical situation, a child is probably not competent to understand, and not able to grant any consent."

Ms. Fine said some accusations of attempted murder because of an HIV infection are hysteria, but not in a case involving a child.

"When you get a child in there, the whole picture changes," the Baltimore attorney said. "There comes a point when you have to take responsibility with your HIV status, and, with a child, there isn't consent. We're talking about someone under 18. We're talking about unprotected sex."

Prosecutors presented the man's case yesterday to the county grand jury, which could return an indictment Monday.

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If convicted of all the charges against him, the man could be sentenced to more than 80 years in prison.


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