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AIDS Inmate Who Bit Guards Guilty of Assault

June 25, 1987

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A prison inmate who bit two guards after testing positive for AIDS virus was found guilty Wednesday of two counts of assault with a deadly and dangerous weapon - his mouth and teeth.

It apparently was the first assault case in which a person with the AIDS virus has been convicted in an attempt to purposely infect another person.

The jury found James V. Moore, 44, of New York City, guilty after deliberating three hours.

Moore was accused of biting guards Timothy Voigt and Ronald McCullough at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., in January.

During the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jon Hopeman said Moore told a nurse after the incident that he wanted the guards to die and hoped they would get AIDS from the wounds.

″Almost any object which is likely to produce death or great bodily harm can, in certain circumstances, be a dangerous weapon,″ Hopeman told the jurors in closing arguments.

Hopeman said it is known that AIDS can be transmitted by blood or other body fluids, but it’s not known if it can be transmitted through saliva.

The maximum sentence for assault with a deadly weapon is 10 years. U.S. District Judge Diana Murphy ordered a presentence investigation and no sentencing date was set.

Moore, sitting at the defense table, rested his head on his arms when the verdict was read. The heroin addict is serving a seven-year sentence running to 1991 for credit card fraud.

Hopeman said he was pleased with the verdict. He said it was hard to separate the AIDS issue from the assault issue, but that he would have brought the case to trial regardless of Moore’s medical condition.

″In my mind, evidence that he had AIDS only related to that he intended to assault the officers with a deadly weapon,″ Hopeman said.

Defense attorney Kevin Lund said he would appeal.

Jury foreman Robert Klink said the unanimous verdict came after three ballots. But he said there was never serious disagreement among jurors.

Moore was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon because ″he could bodily harm somebody with his mouth,″ Klink said. ″The AIDS factor was there, but it was not the decisive thing.″

He also said jurors felt sympathy toward Voigt. ″We just felt bad for the man because of the (AIDS) testing he has to go through and the effect of this on his family life. But it wasn’t a crucial factor in the case.″

Neither guard has tested positive for the AIDS virus, but Voigt testified he would undergo tests until he can be sure he won’t get the deadly disease.

Voigt testified Tuesday that he was bitten hard enough to break the skin and bleed. McCullough said his skin was not broken and he required no treatment.

Dr. Clifford Gastineau, who went to work for the prison hospital after retiring from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, testified that after diagnosing Moore as having the AIDS virus, he warned him to take precautions against spreading the disease, urging him not to share toothbrushes, razors or needles with other people.

He also testifed that human bites can be ″very dangerous forms of aggression″ and can transmit diseases such as hepatitis.

But under cross-examination by defense attorney Kevin Lund, Gastineau testifed that usually bites have to be deeper than the one Moore inflicted to be considered dangerous.

He said it was theoretically possible for AIDS to be passed on through saliva, but said he knew of no scientific proof that AIDS is transmitted through human saliva.

″We know of no proven instances where the human bite has resulted in the transmission of the virus to the bitten person,″ he said.

Voigt testifed that Moore first bit him on the left thigh, but that the skin was not broken. Voigt said he then was bitten on the right thigh and the skin was broken. he showed the jury a half-inch scar from the wound.

The trial began Monday and the defense rested Tuesday without calling any witnesess. The prosecution called seven witnesses.

Lund said that to his knowledge, Moore is the first person with the AIDS virus to be tried on a charge of using his mouth and teeth as a deadly and dangerous weapon for assault.

Others have been charged with using mouth and teeth as dangerous weapon, but none of them have had AIDS virus, Lund said.

In Flint, Mich., a man infected with the AIDS virus was charged with attempted murder after he allegedly spit at police officers.

James C. Richards eventually received two years probation in January, pleading guilty to lesser charges after a judge dismissed the original charge.

In Florida, an inmate accused of plotting to kill a prison officer by putting AIDS-tainted blood serum into the officer’s coffee pleaded guilty in April to solicitation to commit second-degree murder.

In return, charges of conspiracy to commit murder and possession of a weapon by an inmate - the blood serum - were dismissed against the prisoner, Robert Grimmer, 26. The guard has not tested positive for the virus.

Grimmer, who allegedly obtained the blood serum from a prison hospital worker who had access to the blood lab, escaped June 17 before he could be sentenced.

In March, a homeless man pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Mineola, N.Y., saying he killed a male lover who told him he had AIDS.

In Arizona, a court-martial is scheduled to open July 10 in the case of Pfc. Adrian G. Morris, who is accused of aggravated assault after having sex with two other soldiers despite knowing that he carried the AIDS virus.

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