Massachusetts Man Who Refused to Disclose HIV Status Sentenced to Three to Seven Years on Assault Charges
A Springfield, Mass., man whose blood was splattered on police officers during his arrest, possibly exposing them to HIV, pled guilty to assault charges last week and on Thursday was sentenced to three to seven years in jail, the Springfield Union-News reports. Luis Ortiz's case sparked a statewide controversy when he refused to disclose his HIV status following his arrest (Goldberg, Springfield Union-News, 9/15). A district court judge ordered Ortiz to tell officials if he had HIV, but that order was overturned by the state Supreme Court in February, prompting some state lawmakers to propose legislation mandating that criminal defendants reveal whether or not they have HIV or other infectious diseases in situations where they might have exposed law enforcement officers, public safety employees or victims. Gay activists have said that requiring HIV status disclosure could discourage people from getting tested (Associated Press, 9/15). According to police, when they arrived at Ortiz's apartment last January, Ortiz was "drunk and in a violent frenzy," covered in blood and wielding a butcher's knife. Ortiz reportedly "lunged" at two officers while holding the knife, causing one officer to shoot him in the abdomen. As many as eight officers may have been exposed to his blood while attempting to subdue him and put him in an ambulance. Two officers took a course of prophylactic drugs to ward off possible HIV infection, according to Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Dunphy Farris. Ortiz was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery on a police officer, resisting arrest, malicious destruction of property worth more than $250 and witness intimidation. On Wednesday, he filed a statement saying that he did not lunge at the officers but was "unsteady on his feet and wobbled back and forth while holding a knife." Judge Tina Page sentenced Ortiz to three to seven years in prison, but gave him credit for 234 days served (Springfield Union-News, 9/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.