Washington Supreme Court Throws Out Long Sentence for HIV-Positive Man Convicted of Assault
The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously rejected a 10-year sentence for a man convicted of exposing a woman to HIV, while upholding his 1996 assault conviction, the Columbian reports. Prosecutor Art Curtis said that Randall Ferguson's actions depicted "deliberate cruelty," but Justice Charles Smith, writing for the court, said that as that term already had been used to describe Ferguson's crime, it could not again be cited to "justify an exceptional sentence." The high court ruling overturns Clark County Superior Court Judge Edwin Poyfair's decision to exceed state sentencing guidelines, and returns the case for resentencing. Ferguson, who learned of his HIV status in 1988 and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1990, spread the virus to "dozens" of people via unprotected sex and needle sharing between 1989 and 1995, investigators say. Two former wives, a girlfriend, a male acquaintance and another woman have died of AIDS since Ferguson infected them. In 1996, Ferguson was convicted of assaulting a sex partner he met in 1994, as Washington state law criminalizes intentional exposure of HIV to an "unknowing partner." The standard term for second-degree assault is four years and five months to five years and 10 months, but Curtis said Friday, "We're going to ask the Supreme Court whether we are required to resentence within the standard range. We believe there may be additional aggravating circumstances to justify an exceptional sentence." Ferguson has already served four years and two months of his sentence (Thomson, Columbian, 1/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.