The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected a prosecutor's effort to reinstate the conviction of an HIV-positive man accused of passing the virus to another man, ruling Wednesday that the statute under which he was convicted was ambiguous.
Groups supporting gay rights said the ruling affirms the need for government to respect the personal and private decisions of consenting adults regarding sexual intimacy. The prosecutor contended the case was never a civil rights issue, but rather about protecting the public from people who know they're infected but practice unprotected sex anyway.
The high court affirmed a Court of Appeals decision that reversed the attempted first-degree assault conviction of Daniel James Rick, 32, of Minneapolis, who learned he was HIV positive in 2006. He had consensual sex several times starting in early 2009 with a man identified in court papers as D.B., who tested positive that October.
A jury acquitted Rick in 2011 under the first part of a Minnesota statute that applies to cases involving sex without first informing the other person that the defendant has a communicable disease. But it convicted him under another section that the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday applies only "to the donation or exchange for value of blood, sperm, organs, or tissue and therefore does not apply to acts of sexual conduct."