The People of the State of New York, Appellant, vs. Williams, Respondent, Opinion, New York Court of Appeals, 2015

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

This is the uncorrected memorandum announcing the 4 to 1 decision of the New York State Court of Appeals in the case The People v. Williams. The District Attorney’s Office in Onondaga County attempted to charge the defendant, a young Black man living with HIV, with reckless endangerment in the first degree – a felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison for having consensual sex without informing his partner of his HIV status. Finding that the defendant’s alleged conduct did not create a grave risk of death, the trial court reduced the prosecution’s proposed felony charge to second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. An appellate court affirmed the reduction. Undeterred, the prosecution appealed to the state's hightest court, which ruled in favor of the defendant.

The New York Court of Appeals found that the defendant’s consensual sex did not meet the legal standards for the more serious charge. The decision notes: “Here, there is no evidence that defendant exposed the victim to the risk of HIV infection out of any malevolent desire for the victim to contract the virus, or that he was utterly indifferent to the victim's fate.”

At the time of this listing the uncorrected memorandum included here was subject to revision before publication in the New York Reports.