Reckless Disregard for the Facts: Ohio Judge Says HIV Nondisclosure and Transmission is Worse Than Assault With a Deadly Weapon

The collateral consequences of HIV stigma can last a lifetime.
By Catherine Hanssens Founder/Executive Director

Summit County Ohio Judge James Kimbler was unmoved when the five year sentence he imposed on Jeffrey Boatright for felonious assault – for failing to inform a sex partner that he was living with HIV – brought the 27 year-old Boatright and his family to tears. Boatright was convicted after a 23 year-old man claimed to police that he tested positive for HIV two weeks after having sex with Boatright.

Pressing for a harsh sentence, the Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Nik Buckmeier said that Boatright’s sex partner “will deal with the illness for the rest of his life,” that having HIV "affects every part of his life."

At sentencing, Judge Kimbler took this pronouncement one step further. According to the judge, violations of the HIV disclosure law are even worse than typical felonious assault cases— stabbings and shootings— because "in stabbings, wounds heal; in shootings, the wounds heal. The victim in this case lives with the results forever, until he dies."

Whatever may happen to the gay man living with HIV who pressed charges against Boatright, the prosecutor’s comments aptly describe the impact that ignorance about HIV and the related legal consequences are having on Jeffrey Boatright. Even if his appeal is successful, he likely will spend years in prison as a convicted felon while his case winds its way through the Ohio criminal justice system. His HIV diagnosis is medically manageable, but he may have to deal with these collateral consequences of HIV ignorance and stigma until he dies.