Man accused of failing to tell sex partner of HIV infection
A former North Idaho man was summoned to court on Wednesday on the felony criminal charge of having sexual intercourse and not disclosing that he is HIV-positive.
The court filing by Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas charges Mark Arnold Crawford, 36, with “transfer of bodily fluids which may contain the HIV virus.”
The criminal complaint lists one sexual partner, identified as Jane Doe and one consensual sex act on July 30.
Crawford, now in Olympia, court documents show, has cooperated with a Kootenai County sheriff’s detective and with prosecutors, Douglas said. Crawford’s first appearance in Kootenai County 1st District Court is scheduled for Nov. 10, Douglas said.
It is the first case of its kind locally, and second in Idaho. Former college basketball player Kerry Thomas, who was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1986, was convicted of having unprotected sex with a number of sexual partners in the 1990s and failing to disclose his sexually transmitted illness. The Idaho Court of Appeals in 1999 upheld a seven-year sentence for Thomas.
Crawford, 36, has previously only had a speeding ticket, a search of court records shows.
He faces a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and the possibility of a $5,000 fine if convicted on the transfer of bodily fluids charge.
Douglas said the woman learned through a third party that Crawford had HIV. She went to police by early August, Douglas said.
Douglas and Sgt. Dan Mattos, the sheriff’s detective who investigated the matter, both said Crawford has been co-operative. Crawford and the woman “met each other in a social setting,” Mattos said. After the woman complained to police, the sheriff’s department began an investigation. Eventually, Douglas said, Crawford was contacted by telephone and agreed to come to Coeur d’Alene to be interviewed.
Crawford traveled from Olympia on Tuesday. He was served with the summons instead of an arrest warrant, Douglas said, because he has been helpful.
A Western Washington man went on trial Monday in Olympia, in Thurston County Superior Court, on charges he exposed 27 women to the virus that causes AIDS, lying about his HIV-positive status, and with trying to talk some victims out of testifying against him.
Douglas said only one woman has accused Crawford of failing to disclose he had HIV before having sex with her.
Mattos said publicity about the charge may prompt other women to step forward.
Douglas said medical privacy rules prevented him from saying whether or not Jane Doe has tested positive for HIV.
Mattos said, “It doesn’t matter if she has HIV or not. Under the statute, he just has to expose her.”
A local health official said the odds are Jane Doe will not become infected with HIV.
“Just having sex with someone who is HIV-positive does not mean you will get it. The transfer rate is a low percentage,” Dave Hylsky, epidemiologist for Panhandle Health District, said.
Hylsky also said HIV’s development into full-blown AIDS has been delayed due to advances in treatment.
“Without treatment, half of people with HIV developed AIDS within 10 years,” Hylsky said. “Nowadays that can be postponed to 15 or 20 years.”
Idaho’s five northern counties receive only a few reported cases of HIV/AIDS every year, he said. HIV is spread through blood, semen or vaginal secretions, Hylsky said, and can be most commonly contracted by drug users sharing needles.
“The state must show the defendant knew he was infected, had sexual contact and failed to disclose that fact to the victim,” Douglas said. “This is about accountability and compassion. Not only compassion for the victim, whose life has become a living hell, but compassion for the defendant as well. This is a terminal illness.”