San Francisco Judge Rules Insufficient Evidence in Case Against Former Health Commissioner Accused of Knowingly Transmitting HIV
A San Francisco judge on Tuesday found insufficient evidence to support a grand jury indictment against a former San Francisco health commissioner accused of intentionally infecting sexual partners with HIV, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports. The ruling by Superior Court Judge Kay Tsenin to throw out the indictment marked the first judicial review of a 1998 state law against knowingly and deliberately infecting sexual partners with HIV, according to the AP/Mercury News (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 12/10). Former San Francisco Health Commissioner Ron Hill in September pleaded not guilty to the grand jury indictment (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/29). At least two HIV-positive men testified before the grand jury claiming that Hill had repeatedly told them he was not HIV-positive during their relationships. The grand jury also heard testimony that Hill had solicited sex partners over the Internet (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/22).
Prosecutors argued that Hill used his position as health commissioner to avoid questions about his HIV-positive status. Hill's attorney, Peter Fitzpatrick, argued in court papers and to Tsenin that there was insufficient evidence to show that Hill had intentionally infected anyone with HIV, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. He said that Hill's relationships with the two HIV-positive men, Thomas Lister and Christopher M., were "normal." Fitzpatrick also argued that even if Hill had lied about his HIV status, that deception would not meet the standard of an illegal act under the law, which requires prosecutors show "specific intent" to infect someone. In her ruling, Tsenin said that prosecutors could not meet the legal burden with their "very marginal amount" of evidence against Hill. Prosecutor Greg Barge said that he did not know whether the case would be refiled or whether the ruling would be appealed, according to the Chronicle. Lister, who originally brought the suit against Hill, said, "We've pursued it to the limit. I don't see it as a victory for the defense or a defeat for the D.A.'s office but as an opportunity to go [to] the Legislature in California to get this law changed. It's a law that is not working -- and we need to change that" (Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/10).