Darren Chiacchia’s nearly decade-long legal nightmare is finally over. The gay Olympic medalist has been fighting charges for allegedly violating Florida’s HIV disclosure law. The equestrian was injured during the 2008 Olympic trials, when he was thrown from his horse and suffered traumatic brain injury, which negatively impacted his ability to participate in his legal defense.
In 2009, after reportedly attempting to file charges against Chiacchia in both New York and Kentucky, a former lover filed suit in Florida, alleging that Chiacchia had failed to disclose his HIV status prior to engaging in a sexual relationship with him.
Chiacchia was charged with a felony, but the case was dismissed after a judge ruled that Florida’s legal definition of sexual intercourse didn’t include acts between two men, and thus Chiacchia couldn’t be charged with failing to inform his partner prior to intercourse. (Florida’s state law defined sexual intercourse as involving the coupling of male and female organs). That decision was later overturned by the 5th District Court of Appeals in 2013.
Now, Florida’s Assistant State Attorney, Tim McCourt, has dropped all charges against Chiacchia, telling the court, “In the light of the totality of the evidence it is reasonable to believe that the victim learned” of Chiacchia’s status “at a time earlier than he has stated.”
In his written statement, McCourt pointed to inconsistencies between testimony by the alleged “victim,” a doctor, and other witnesses as reason for dropping the charges. Chiacchia has become an activist in the nationwide effort to appeal or modernize HIV criminalization laws, many of which fail to take scientific facts into consideration.