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Iowa Man Denied Parole in HIV Criminalization Case

Iowa Man Denied Parole in HIV Criminalization Case


After serving six years of an 25-year sentence for transmitting HIV to an ex-girlfriend, Tabor still insists he was open about his status, and that insistence may have cost him parole.

According to the Des Moines Register, the Iowa Board of Parole has denied parole to Lonnie Shayne Tabor, who has served six years of a 25-year prison sentence for transmitting the HIV virus.

State prison officials reportedly told the parole board that Tabor had a good record in prison and they recommended paroling him to Texas, where he had a job lined up and planned to live with his mother in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Still, the parole board voted 3-0 to deny 50-year-old Tabor early release. Parole Board Chairman John Hodge cited Tabor’s claim that his former girlfriend had known he was HIV positive, as a reason for the parole denial. 

“The one conclusion that we came to is that you may have taken responsibility for the results, but we are not convinced you have taken responsibility for the actions that led to that result," Hodges said.

According to court records, Tabor was diagnosed with HIV in 1999. He met Katharine Richards in February 2006 and the two began a three-year relationship, during which time Tabor had ongoing health issues such as lung ailments and skin rashes. Richards insists Tabor never told her the cause of his medical problems.

Richards reportedly learned Tabor was HIV positive when she returned from a vacation in April 2009 and discovered he’d been arrested for allegedly attempting to sexually assault a teenage girl. (The sexual assault charge was later dropped after Tabor was convicted of felony transmission of HIV.) Richards was tested for HIV and learned she was also positive. 

Complaining that Tabor had never expressed remorse and arguing he’ll transmit the virus to others upon released, the 43-year-old single mother of three, said it would be “unacceptable” for Tabor to be paroled after only six years. She told the parole board that that her younger daughter, who is now 15 years old, hasn’t even spoken Tabor's name since he was arrested.

"She replaced his name with 'Monster' for about two years and then quit talking about this. I know in my heart that we are not done dealing with this," Richards said.

Despite still insisting Richards was aware of his status, Tabor told the parole board, “The bottom line is that I gave my best friend HIV. I feel horrible about it. I can’t change that," he said.

Richards’ HIV is currently controlled by medication, but she says she is unable to work because of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder and has to live off disability payments.

Tabor has taken a victim impact course in prison, says he "wasn't worth a darn" before his arrest, and insisted he wouldn't return to his former life. "I have too much of a life to live. I am not going to be that guy again," he insisted.

Thirty-four states have laws that criminalize HIV, making certain actions by people living with HIV illegal (most of these laws revolve around sex and disclosure but not all of them insist on transmission).  Tabor is one of six people in Iowa who continue to be imprisoned for criminal transmission of HIV even after the state law was rewritten last year. Activists successfully argued that the old law was draconian and a product of anti-AIDS hysteria out of touch with modern medical knowledge.

Under the old law if someone exposed another person to HIV without their consent, the person with HIV could be convicted of a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The new law applies to both HIV and other infectious diseases and only raises a crime only to a Class B felony if a person intends to transmit a disease and if they succeed in transmitting the disease without the consent of an uninfected person. Otherwise there are lesser penalties.

Prison officials told the Des Moines Register Tabor’s case didn’t have a mandatory minimum sentence and he hadn’t received any kind of leniency under the revised legislation. 

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