3 Jun (GOLDSBORO, NC) – In the wake of evidence that a senior government prosecutor attempted to intimidate a key defense witness in the HIV-transmission case of USAF Airman Basic “GBA” of Seymour Johnson AFB. N.C., the case has been continued until August 22. Judge Michael A. Lewis (Lt. Col, USAF) continued the case to allow the defense, at prosecutors’ expense, to find a new expert. (For privacy reasons, the airman’s name is being withheld.)
Accused in March 2011 of assaulting three partners by engaging in unprotected sex without informing them of his HIV-positive test results, if convicted at a court-martial, the 27-year-old airman faces a dishonorable discharge, lifetime registration as a sex offender, and a felony conviction carrying up to an eight-year prison sentence.
Currently, 32 states, the military and two U.S. territories have laws that criminalize exposing another person to HIV even if the virus isn’t actually transmitted. According to the Center for HIV Law and Policy, 350 HIV-positive people have been arrested or prosecuted for consensual sex, biting and spitting, with their alleged HIV infection viewed as a lethal weapon.
Defense witness Gregory Hendricks, Ph.D. withdrew from the USAF case after prosecutor Capt. Mark Rosenow contacted the department chair of the University of Massachusetts (U. Mass) lab where Hendricks worked. A biochemist and associate professor who designed and built the university’s core electron microscopy (EM) facility, Hendricks had agreed to examine samples of the airman’s blood using EM, the powerful magnifying technology that detects viruses.
With support from the Office of Medical and Scientific Justice (OMSJ), a non-profit investigative agency comprised of legal and scientific experts, GBA’s defense argued that the airman’s blood should be examined at the U. Mass laboratory. Since the 1980s, Hendricks has identified and photographed thousands of images of HIV using EM. OMSJ experts contend that, as the “gold standard,” EM is the only reliable method that can identify the presence of the virus.
OMSJ also contends that GBA’s military doctors and lab failed to abide by the legal FDA instructions, warnings and limitations that accompany serological (blood serum) HIV tests.
On April 10 in another closely watched case, Dr. Hendricks examined the blood of Nushawn “Notorious HIV” Williams and found no evidence of the HIV virus in his blood. Hendricks’ findings cast serious doubt on the HIV-related charges that sent Williams to prison in 1999.
When Capt. Rosenow alleged that the U. Mass lab might be involved in “unlawful” practices ten days later, the university launched an internal investigation. Fearing for his professional future, Hendricks withdrew from the USAF case and all other OMSJ cases, including the upcoming civil commitment trial of Nushawn Williams.
At Seymour Johnson AFB, meanwhile, Judge Lewis is considering whether to dismiss charges against GBA and sanction Capt. Rosenow for dissuading a witness, which would disqualify him from the case. His written ruling is expected by July.
This is the third military case OMSJ has participated in since November 2012. Founded by investigator and retired LAPD officer Clark Baker, OMSJ provides medical, scientific, legal and investigative support to the victims of unsubstantiated medical and scientific practices. Since 2009, OMSJ has participated in 50 cases that have resulted in favorable plea agreements or the withdrawal of all HIV-related charges.
“The real problem,” claims OMSJ CEO Baker, “is that treating physicians and laboratories ignore FDA warnings regarding the unreliability of biological tests and assume, with confidence, that healthy patients are infected with deadly diseases when they are not. We’ve seen lives devastated by these misguided practices and fear that thousands of Americans and US servicemembers may have been similarly misdiagnosed and unnecessarily discharged or imprisoned since the 1990s.”