HIV-Positive Man Charged with Aggravated Assault for Spitting on Police Officers

Categories: Crime

anthonyhorne.jpg
Anthony Horne
Anthony Duane Horne, 25, an HIV-positive man, was charged with aggravated assault for spitting on two Dallas police officers, The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Voice reported yesterday. According to police, when a Dallas County Hospital employee tried to put a spit mask on Horne, who was being booked for public intoxication, he apparently got loose and spit on a male officer. Then he was taken to the Dallas County Jail, where he spit in a female officer's face. Both officers were sent to the hospital to make sure they weren't infected.

Horne also has hepatitis, the papers reported.

First things first: You can't get HIV from spit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes an explicit point of saying that there are no known cases of HIV being spread through saliva.

But Horne is being charged with aggravated assault, because his saliva is considered a deadly weapon. HIV can spread through some of those other fluids that constitute assault, sure. Specifically blood, seminal fluid and vaginal fluid. (Also breast milk, brain and spinal fluid, fluid around joints and around unborn babies, but you probably shouldn't sling those at cops even if the penal code doesn't mention them.) But not saliva.

"When these kinds of charges are brought there really is no rational reason for bringing them," says attorney Scott Schoettes, HIV projects director for Lambda Legal, a civil rights group that focuses on people living with HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities. "I'm not seeing any justification here for bringing these charges."

Now, Horne would have been charged with assault regardless of his HIV status. Since January, three other people have been charged with assault and harassing a public servant for spitting on cops. The Texas penal code considers "harassment of public servant" to be an "assaultive offense." It defines that harassment as when someone "causes another person the actor knows to be a public servant to contact the blood, seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, saliva, urine, or feces of the actor, any other person, or an animal while the public servant is lawfully discharging an official duty or in retaliation or on account of an exercise of the public servant's official power or performance of an official duty."

But Texas has an odd relationship with spit and HIV. Here in Dallas in 2008, an HIV-positive homeless man spit at an officer and was sentenced to 35 years in prison on a charge of harassing a public servant with a deadly weapon, which along with causing serious bodily harm constitutes aggravated assault. There's nothing in the penal code explicitly saying that bodily fluids count as deadly weapons, but in that case the prosecutors argued that any amount of risk was enough to qualify the man's spit as a deadly weapon.

A year ago a Lufkin man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for spitting at officers and claiming to have HIV (he tested negative the next day).

Schoettes believes that these decisions are prompted by "a lot of misinformation and misconceptions."

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23 comments
davidhopkins
davidhopkins

So much misinformation. (Read people. Learn: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/qa/transmission.htm) You cannot get HIV from someone with HIV spitting on you--regardless of open sores, etc. --unless blood was just pouring from his mouth, and you have a gaping wound in your mouth, which is just gross. 

girlonfire
girlonfire

@Rob Morales I don't believe the person would get infected if the spatter has open sores, first HIV dies once it hits the air and second the person whom was spit on has to have open wounds/sores. Blood has to be in the mix...what type of doctor are you???


arstubblefield
arstubblefield

I don't think there's any question that Horne would have been charged with some form of assault for spitting on the officer, regardless of his HIV status.  Rather, as I see it, the two pertinent questions are: (i) does Horne's HIV status rise to the level of an aggravating factor under the Penal Code; and (ii) does Horne's HIV status actually make his saliva a 'deadly weapon' as that term is defined in the Penal Code?  

If the Code specifically contemplates HIV status as an aggravating factor and/or puts saliva within the definition of a deadly weapon, then there's really nothing discriminatory going on in terms of how Horne is being charged.  (Of course, that's not to say that there shouldn't be a broader discussion about the substance of those Code provisions.)  But, if the Code is not clear on those issues, then we should ask whether we want law enforcement agencies and/or the prosecutor's office imposing an interpretation on the Code that may have some fairly discriminatory implications.

Not saying I necessarily know what the answer is; but I think it's important to make sure we're all focused on the right question(s).

jebcos89
jebcos89

Saliva cannot transmit HIV. Never has, never will. But even if there was blood in his mouth, it still cannot be transmitted unless the blood landed on an open wound in the officers body (which only could happen if they officer just got injured himself and was bleeding). No matter how you look at it, HIV could not have been transmitted in this case. These charged are going to get dropped. Guarantee it.

observist
observist topcommenter

Too bad he didn't have a gun - then he could have really fought those jack-booted thugs of tyranny.

StupidHippies
StupidHippies

Did they give him an HIV test before charging him? This is such a BS libtard slanted article.

Is it impossible to have blood in your mouth? What if he also had herpes and an officer got infected in their eye? You can't fucking spit on people whether you have HIV or not. If you have HIV it just means you are that much fucking dumber. 

Valentio Hall
Valentio Hall

Thank you Rob and Shane, only two with common sense. Ask yourself how you would feel if the shoe was one the other foot. Clearly this guy doesn't make good decisions in life.

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

He should get time for that dye job.

Shane Owens
Shane Owens

He also had hepatitis which can be passed through saliva. Hepatitis therefore can be considered for the charge of agg assault. People with an agenda are focusing on the HIV because it fits their narrative.

Rob Morales
Rob Morales

If someone bleeding gums..open sores. It's possible. I'm a doctor

Larry Richard
Larry Richard

no it would not be the same charge.. this is an absolute waste of gov funds and resources. ..

Jennie Harding
Jennie Harding

Would the charge be the same if he was not HIV+?

Adam Silva
Adam Silva

While dumb to spit on police officers, it is even more dumb to be so ignorant about how HIV is transferred. This isn't the 80s (though that guy's hair might look it).

Lori Hensley McKinnon
Lori Hensley McKinnon

Absolutely STUPID charge. You can't infect someone with HIV by spitting on them, and police officers KNOW that.

Jim Doyle
Jim Doyle

The odds of catching HIV from spit is about 1:500,000,000

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Spitting at a police officer is not a very good or smart idea under any circumstances.  Basic protocol is to avoid contact with ALL bodily fluids when dealing with HIV.


Besides, IIRC, under the Texas Criminal Code (and tort law), spitting in someone's face is considered to be a form of assault and the recipient can respond with force.

grahamburgers
grahamburgers

@Shane Owens The vast majority of hepatitis cases, especially with modern medicine, don't even present symptoms. I reeeeeally don't think you can call that a "deadly weapon". And, frankly, if you can I think it sets a terrible precedent. The flu CAN be fatal -- is it assault with a deadly weapon if you cough on someone?

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

I'm not a doctor. I just play one on the DO blog.

jebcos89
jebcos89

@Jennie Harding In many states, spitting is considered "harassment". Here in New Jersey, there is no law referring to HIV+ people spitting, because New Jersey is one of those states where it is known that saliva cannot transmit HIV. However it is considered illegal to spit, period no matter what the HIV status. 

jebcos89
jebcos89

@Jim Doyle The odds of catching HIV from spit is zero. It has never happened before, it cannot happen at all. Saliva just isnt an environment that HIV is able to live in. 

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