Katie Richards of Pleasant Hill, is fighting the possible parole of a man who gave her the HIV virus.
DES MOINES — Katharine Richards is living with HIV. Her ex-boyfriend gave it to her, and was sent to prison for it.
Now Richards is fighting his release.
“He is not safe. He has not taken responsibility. He hasn’t ever apologized,” Richards, 43, of Pleasant Hill told The Des Moines Register. “He has changed my whole life, and it has affected my children dramatically. This thing has turned our family inside out.”
Lonnie Shane Tabor, 50, has served six years of a 25-year prison sentence for criminally transmitting HIV and will be considered for parole by the Iowa Board of Parole on Wednesday. Iowa Department of Corrections officials declined to permit him to be interviewed via telephone from prison.
Tabor was convicted under a state law that was rewritten last year by the Iowa Legislature amid arguments that it was draconian and a product of anti-AIDS hysteria in the 1990s. He is among six inmates in Iowa’s prison system serving time for criminal transmission of HIV, and is the only one not also convicted of sexual abuse.
Tabor’s sentence does not require a mandatory minimum time in prison, and he is not receiving leniency under the revised legislation, Assistant Iowa Corrections Director Fred Scaletta said.
Learning she was HIV positive
Richards said she contracted HIV during a three-year relationship with Tabor. She was aware Tabor had health issues, but she said Tabor told her his condition was related to other medical problems.
Richards learned Tabor was HIV positive only after she returned from a vacation to discover he had been arrested for attempted sexual assault.
A police detective told Richards the stunning news that the man she had lived with was HIV positive.
“Honestly, I pretty much thought my life was over, and I got really suicidal for a little bit,” Richards said. “My kids were actually the ones who came around and said, ‘Hey, Mom, you are not going to die. They have good treatments now.’ They knew so much more about the treatment availability than I did.”
The sexual assault charges against Tabor were eventually dropped, but only after he was convicted by a Polk County jury of felony transmission of HIV. A decision was made to spare the attempted sexual assault victim the trauma of further proceedings.
“My infection was premeditated,” Richards said. “He would like the world to believe he is, in fact, the victim of a malicious ex-(girlfriend) and an unfair law.”
Richards, who had been employed in the past as a business consultant and project manager in Des Moines for a major financial services company, is living on disability payments. She has a son and two daughters, and said she is unable to work due to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Her HIV is controlled by medication, but she has gone through extensive counseling and therapy.
Scaletta defended the recommendation to parole Tabor to Texas. He said a release to Texas would ensure Tabor has at least some correctional supervision in the community before he finishes his sentence. Tabor has family members in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The alternative is to keep Tabor behind bars until his sentence expires Aug. 31, 2020, after time is deducted for participation in work and treatment programs, Scaletta said. If Tabor remains in prison until then, he would not receive any community supervision upon his release.
In addition to Richards, the father of the attempted sexual assault victim has spoken out against Tabor’s release.
He was serving in the Army in Iraq when he learned of the attempted assault.
“I believe Lonnie Shane Tabor will re-offend if permitted the opportunity, as evidenced by his own lies during the trial where he claimed he told (Richards) he was HIV positive at the beginning of their relationship,” the father wrote. “Furthermore, he sent letters from jail indicating a lack of remorse or guilt.”
The Register does not name the victims of sexual assault, and is therefore not naming the victim’s father.
Tabor entered the state’s prison system in March 2010 after almost a year in county jail. Scaletta said the inmate was sent to Rockwell City to participate in victim impact programming. He has received three disciplinary reports while in prison — all involving unauthorized property in his cell or unauthorized use of property. His last disciplinary report was nearly three years ago.
“It’s not fair that he can get out in six years and can do this to somebody else,” Richards said. “This is the whole reason I went through a trial; to try to protect somebody else, his next victim. I don’t believe he is rehabilitated. I don’t believe he will ever be.”
About the revised law
The new law regarding HIV transmission, known as The Contagious or Infectious Disease Transmission Act, says that a person commits a Class B felony only if an infected person intends to transmit a disease and if they transmit it without the consent of an uninfected person. The Class B felony carries a 25-year prison sentence. Otherwise there are lesser penalties. The new law includes other infectious diseases in addition to HIV.
The revised law was supported by One Iowa, the state’s largest gay and lesbian rights organization, and Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa Network, known as CHAIN. Activists said Iowa’s previous law, enacted in 1998, discouraged testing and disclosure because of the severe penalties associated with simply knowing one’s status.
Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, said her organization did not have all of the information on Tabor’s case and she could not comment.
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