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Convicted of Lesser Charges

July 28, 1988

SIERRA VISTA, Ariz. (AP) _ An Army private infected with the AIDS virus was acquitted of aggravated assault charges for having sex with three other soldiers, but was sentenced to two months’ confinement on two lesser counts.

Pvt. Adrian G. Morris Jr., 28, of Caseyville, Ill., was found guilty Wednesday by a military judge of one count of conduct bringing discredit upon the Army for having sex after his superiors counseled him against it.

The judge also found him guilty of one count of sodomy with another male private.

He had been accused of threatening the lives of three soldiers, including two women, by having unprotected sex with them although he had tested positive for the AIDS virus.

″I’m glad it’s over,″ said Morris, who in March 1987 became the first member of the military to be charged with AIDS-related offenses.

He said he had anticipated a harsh sentence if convicted ″because of the emotion surrounding″ the case and ″the disease itself.″

But the judge, Army Col. Raymond D. Cole, deliberated less than 20 minutes before acquitting Morris on three counts of aggravated assault and two counts of conduct bringing discredit on the military.

″I am convinced the accused never intended to harm any of his sexual partners,″ Cole said.″By God’s good grace, and blind luck, no one was infected.″

Cole sentenced Morris to two months’ confinement at Fort Huachuca, where he has been restricted for the last 15 months, ordered him to forfeit $1,200 in pay over three months, gave him a bad-conduct discharge and ordered him not to have unprotected sex.

Col. Harry C. Beans III, whose office prosecuted Morris, said he was trying to ″figure out the judge’s logic with our failure to prove an aggravated assault. Quite frankly, I thought we did it, I thought we made our case.″

But Beans added that he wasn’t ″down″ on the verdict. ″We’re talking about a human being, a young soldier here, and it really is a tragedy.″

Cole said the government’s theory about aggravated assault of a sexual partner was ″revolutionary, but not well established.″

The judge found Morris innocent of aggravated assault involving his former fiancee, Specialist Patricia Pruitt; a soldier identified pseudonymously as Pfc. Jane Doe; and then-Pfc. Anthony L. Baldwin, along with conduct charges involving the latter two soldiers.

The judge indicated that when Morris had sexual contact with Jane Doe and Baldwin in late 1986, he was not aware that AIDS could be transmitted through exchange of bodily fluids.

But Cole found Morris guilty of the single conduct charge for resuming unprotected sex with Pruitt in January 1987, even though he had been given detailed counseling for soldiers who have tested positive to the human immunodeficiency virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Before sentencing, Morris, through a statement read by a defense lawyer, apologized to his parents ″for all the embarrassment I have brought to the family (and) to all I have hurt.″

He added, ″I never meant to harm (anyone).″

Morris said that on learning of being HIV-positive in 1986, ″my first decision was to be celibate. But I soon realized this was not realistic.″

Before the sentencing, two sergeants testified on Morris’ behalf, praising his work and character.

Legal issues delayed his trial and military courts have tried other AIDS- related cases in the interim.