HIV Positive Man Convicted for Spitting at an Officer

An HIV+ man in Dallas was convicted to 35 years in prison for spitting at an officer, despite the extremely low risk of contracting the AIDS virus from saliva. Willie Campbell spit into the eye and open mouth of a Dallas police officer Dan Waller while he was being arrested for public intoxication in 2006.

Prosecutors was able to convince a jury that the spit of 42-year-old Campbell constituted a deadly weapon, making the long term appropriate. His long-term imprisonment was also stemmed for being a "habitual offender," having been in prison twice before, making him subject to a sentence of at least 25 years.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no one has ever contracted HIV from spit. Even the Dallas County Health Department issued a statement that the virus is usually spread by sexual contact or sharing needles with an infected person or through a transfusion of tainted blood. Waller was tested negative of HIV.

The prosecution claimed that any risk is sufficient enough to consider Campbell’s spit as a deadly weapon. They further added that risk provides a "possibility of causing serious bodily injury or death," which was the legal definition of a deadly weapon. District Attorney Craig Watkins even added that "it was clear that the defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury." While in prison awaiting trial, Campbell bit two inmates and attacked four others.

Meanwhile, gay rights groups protested the results of the trial, saying the verdict could create a wrong impression on how HIV is transmitted.

"It’s been 25 years since the virus was identified, but there are still lots of fear," Bebe Anderson of Lambda Legal told a local publication. "We are still facing people losing their jobs and fighting for their children because of fears that are unfounded."

 
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