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Civil Confinement for Offender Who Spread HIV?

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on July 21, 2010 7:13 AM

The state of New York has won its case to keep convicted sex offender Nushawn Williams confined after his twelve year sentence is complete. Williams reportedly infected at least thirteen women with AIDS. He pled guilty to statutory rape and reckless endangerment 1998.

According to the Associated Press, Williams' attorneys tried to convince the court he should not be subject to the civil confinement law since it was passed long after he was incarcerated for his rape sentence and had begun serving his reckless endangerment sentence. Reckless endangerment is not a crime eligible under the criminal confinement law. However, the judge agreed with the prosecution that the civil confinement law could apply because he was still in prison when the law was passed.

The AP reports the state's civil confinement law allows the system to keep a sex offender confined indefinitely if it can prove the offender has a mental abnormality and is likely to commit more crimes. Offenders are held at psychiatric facilities, not prisons, with their cases reviewed on a yearly basis. Several states have civil confinement or commitment laws. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Kansas v. Hendricks that these laws did not violate the constitutional guarantees against double jeopardy or ex post facto clauses.

The prosecution claimed that Nushawn Williams fit the type of offender ment to be segregated from society under this law. In court papers, the AP says he was described as a "mentally disturbed, sex-obsessed drug user who was cited for 21 disciplinary offenses in prison." It was also reported that the year before Williams was charged, authorities in rural Chautauqua County took the unusual step of making Williams' HIV status public to try to stop further spread of the virus by Williams' infected partners.

Williams says he did not remember being told he was infected and did not purposely spread HIV. During a March interview with a correctional facility doctor he said, "If I used protection, I wouldn't have it, either."

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