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AIDS Victim Faces 20-Year Sentence

August 3, 1995

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ A woman who says she was so drunk one night she can’t remember whether she had sex has become the first person accused under a North Dakota law requiring AIDS victims to warn partners they are infected.

Cyndi Potete _ a 40-year-old AIDS activist who has lectured to some 20,000 children about how to avoid getting infected _ was charged after a man who allegedly saw the couple having sex reported her to authorities.

Prosecutors said she ``intentionally, knowingly or recklessly engaged in sexual intercourse″ with her former boss, Tim Martin, during a weekend of binge drinking in April. She could get 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

``They can’t give me 20 years,″ said Potete, a recovering alcoholic and a former prostitute and intravenous drug user. ``I don’t have it to give.″

Martin himself did not willingly come forward, and in fact boasted to police that he had sex with Potete. Prosecutors subpoenaed him for his testimony.

Prosecutors don’t know if Martin has the AIDS virus and they won’t have to prove that in court.

Potete said she ran into Martin in a bar April 30. She said one drink led to two, and the next thing she remembers is waking up naked in the back of Martin’s pickup.

``If it happened, I didn’t consent to it. I don’t know that I didn’t tell him″ about having AIDS, Potete said. ``I tell everybody.″

It was rape if Martin took advantage of her when she was drunk, said Robert Halfhill, a spokesman for ACT-UP, an AIDS protest group, and Gay Liberation Front of Minnesota.

``If she feels like she’s been raped, just like anyone else, she should report that,″ said prosecutor Mark Boening.

Potete said she has no plans to file rape charges.

Potete learned she had the AIDS virus after being admitted to a treatment program in 1987. She developed full-blown AIDS five years later.

Since 1993, she has taken part in an award-winning education project called Positive Voices, telling schoolchildren how to avoid AIDS.

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