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Washington man found guilty in serial HIV assault case

Washington man found guilty in serial HIV assault case

A man has been convicted of deliberately exposing 17 women to HIV and related offenses and faces a prison term of 130 to 190 years. Anthony E. Whitfield, 32, of Lacey, Wash., was found guilty Monday on 17 counts of first-degree assault with sexual motivation, two counts of witness tampering, and three counts of violating a court protection order. Thurston County, Wash., superior court judge William Thomas McPhee, who heard the case without a jury, also found Whitfield innocent on a third witness-tampering charge. Whitfield, who reportedly was infected with HIV when he was sexually assaulted while serving a prison term in Oklahoma in the 1990s, wept as McPhee announced the verdict. Sentencing was set for December 21. "My job is to protect the safety of this community, and the only way to do that is by incarcerating him for the rest of his life," deputy prosecutor Jodilyn Erikson-Muldrew said outside the courtroom. Five women cited in the case have tested positive for HIV, and a sixth has developed AIDS. Whitfield had children with three of the women and long-term relationships with four. Health officials said as many as 170 people may have been exposed to the virus because of his actions, including subsequent partners of women he slept with. Most tested negative for the virus, but 45 refused to be tested or couldn't be found. During the trial an Oklahoma prison official testified that Whitfield was diagnosed with HIV while incarcerated in 1992. Two women testified that Whitfield once said, seemingly in jest, that if he had HIV, he would give it to as many people as he could. Defense lawyer Charles Lane said Whitfield was a methamphetamine-addicted "sex machine" who bounced between women for shelter, money, and sex but never meant to inflict "great bodily harm" as required for him to be convicted of first-degree assault. "A lot of this trial was trying to lay out a platform for appeal," Lane said. "I think that there are going to be a lot of things that need to be reviewed and addressed by the court of appeals." The case spawned at least two episodes of racist leafleting in Olympia, each involving 100 or more homes--once shortly after Whitfield, who is black, pleaded innocent to four counts of assault in April and again as the trial was starting late last month. The fliers--some of which proclaimed, "Don't Have Sex With Blacks; Avoid AIDS!"--were wrapped in plastic bags weighted down with cat box filler or sand and hurled onto homeowners' yards at night. No arrests have been reported.

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