Minn. Supreme Court reverses felony conviction of HIV-positive man

The court ruled the man was wrongly convicted under a statute on the "knowing transfer of a communicable disease"

Published August 21, 2013 8:47PM (EDT)

    (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-148426p1.html'> motorolka </a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
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The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled unanimously that an HIV-positive man was wrongly convicted of felony assault after his partner, whom he had previously disclosed his status to at the beginning of their sexual relationship, also became HIV-positive,

In 2009, Daniel James Rick was prosecuted under the state's "knowing transfer of a communicable disease" statute after his sexual partner tested positive for the disease after having unprotected sex with Rick. According to the details of the case, both men were aware of Rick's status before they had sex, and both had mutually agreed not to use condoms.

More from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

In a 5-0 decision, the court sided with the Minnesota Court of Appeals’ overturning of Daniel James Rick’s conviction of attempted first-degree assault, reasoning that a Hennepin County Jury found him guilty under an ambiguous 17-year-old state law that refers to sperm donation, not sex.

Meanwhile, County Attorney Mike Freeman, whose office convicted Rick, said prosecutors will proceed with other pending cases against Rick, while encouraging the state Legislature to clarify the law.

The case was closely watched by civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and Lamda Legal, which argued that the felony conviction was a violation of Rick's constitutionally protected right to make personal decisions about sex with another consenting adult.

Terri Nelson, legal director for the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union applauded the ruling, saying the court's decision “rightly protects Minnesotans from unconstitutional intrusions into their private conduct.”

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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