Charges dropped against Iowa man whose conviction on HIV transmission charges was overturned

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Black Hawk County prosecutors are asking a judge to drop criminal transmission of HIV charges against an Iowa man, saying they cannot proceed with prosecution after the Iowa Supreme Court threw out his conviction in June.

The dismissal, if approved, means Nick Rhoades, 40, of Plainfield, will not be a convicted felon and will not be branded a sex offender for life.

Assistant Black Hawk County Attorney Linda Fangman filed a motion to dismiss the case on Tuesday, online court records show.

The motion cites the Supreme Court's ruling and the amount of time that has passed since original charges were filed in 2008, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports (http://bit.ly/YTqoyB ) .

Rhoades, who had been treated for the virus that can cause AIDS since 2005, had sex with a man he met in an Internet chat room in 2008.

He was charged under a 1998 Iowa law that made it a felony for someone with HIV to engage in intimate contact with another person without disclosing it. The law, which carried a 25-year prison sentence and lifetime registration as sex offender, did not specify that the other party must become infected for there to be a crime.

Rhoades' case prompted the Iowa Legislature to change the law last year making people eligible for stiffest penalties only if they intended to transmit a disease without someone's knowledge. The new law included a clause that that retroactively removed Rhoades and others convicted under the previous statute from required sex offender registration.

Rhoades had been sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty but he appealed the sentence and was given probation for five years.

In the appeal of his conviction, he claimed his original trial attorney had been ineffective by letting him plead guilty when there was an inadequate factual basis to support the plea. His appeals attorneys argued there was no exchange of bodily fluid and the use of a condom indicated there was no intent to expose his partner.

The Supreme Court found there was insufficient factual basis to support Rhoades' plea and returned the case to district court with orders that the prosecutors must come up with additional evidence to back up the charge by Oct. 1. The motion to dismiss the case was filed a day before the deadline.

Rhoades' attorneys had said it was his hope the case would be dropped.

"We can safely say he will not be a felon, he will not be a sex offender, and he can sleep soundly knowing that," said Joseph Glazebrook, of Des Moines, one of the team of attorneys representing Rhoades in his appeal.


Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com

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