Controversial AIDS activists sentenced to probation
August 05 2003 12:00 AM ET
Two AIDS activists have pleaded no contest to making harassing phone calls to public health officials and newspaper reporters. Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli were sentenced to three years'
probation in connection with the 2001 phone calls. The men were also ordered to attend counseling sessions and are still subject to restraining orders that prohibit them from contacting the recipients of the phone calls. Petrelis and Pasquarelli were arrested in November 2001 and charged with making dozens of threatening phone calls to local newspaper employees and public health officials. The men were apparently angry about newspaper stories about AIDS and about public health campaigns that they said stigmatized gay sex. Pasquarelli has received criticism from other AIDS activists for subscribing to a theory that HIV does not cause AIDS.
The men, both of whom have AIDS, said they agreed to plead no contest to misdemeanor charges because their health had deteriorated and they wanted to end the case. "I like living a lot," Petrelis told the Los Angeles Times. "I want to keep myself healthy and alive, and going through a preliminary hearing or eventual trial, I think, could have been deadly." Petrelis pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors. Pasquarelli pleaded no contest to three charges. Assistant District Attorney Michon Martin said prosecutors agreed to the plea bargain because the men agreed to abide by the restraining orders and because of Pasquarelli's declining health. Jeff Sheehy, a press officer for the AIDS Research Institute at the University of California, San Francisco, and one of those receiving the calls, said he is uncertain what to make of the plea deal. "Violence and threats of violence are not activism," Sheehy said. "Their goal was not to add to the debate about HIV and AIDS but to shut down the debate."