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A Texas man who infected a 15-year-old girl with HIV has been sentenced to 95 years in prison.
Matthew Louis Reese, 31, of Dallas, pleaded guilty Tuesday to three serious felony charges related to the statutory rape of a girl and not informing her of his HIV-positive status. The Dallas Morning News reports that Reese's convictions resulted in a 95-year prison sentence, and he won't be eligible for parole until he's served at least half of his time.
What's the legal basis for Reese's weighty sentence?
Reese was charged with three felonies in connection with his allegedly consensual relationship with a 15-year-old girl that resulted in her infection with HIV. Those charges were:
During Reese's trial, it was revealed that the teen meet Reese on a phone-chat line in 2012, and they had their first sexual encounter in 2013. Unfortunately for Reese's victim, Reese had known he was HIV positive since 2006, but did not notify her or use protection, reports the Morning News.
The victim's age and the knowing HIV infection is likely why prosecutors pushed for 55-, 20-, and 20-year sentences for each respective charge. It may also help to explain why Judge Pat McDowell ordered the sentences be served consecutively (i.e., one after another) as opposed to concurrently. Judges are often given broad discretion when determining criminal sentences and may impose consecutive or maximum sentences if a crime is especially heinous, like Reese's.
Many states have specific criminal laws governing when an HIV+ person, who is aware of his or her status, must disclose that information to a sexual partner. Some states only mandate prosecution when an HIV+ person knowingly infects a partner after uninformed sex without protection. Other, more strict statutes require disclosure with any sexual contact, regardless of protection or whether the partner was ultimately infected.
According to the Center for HIV Law and Policy, Texas has not had an HIV-specific criminal law on the books since 1994, but HIV+ offenders are often prosecuted using aggravated assault and attempted murder charges instead.
A Texas appellate court ruled in 2006 that an HIV+ man's seminal fluid is considered a deadly weapon for purposes of aggravated assault, which is essentially how Reese was charged.
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