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Former Air Force Sergeant With AIDS Loses Supreme Court Battle With AM-Scotus Rdp, Bjt

October 15, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A former Air Force sergeant convicted of aggravated assault for homosexual conduct while knowingly infected with an AIDS-related virus lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday.

The justices, without comment, let stand Nathaniel Johnson Jr.’s conviction, dishonorable military discharge and six-year prison sentence.

Johnson was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Washington state when in 1987 he tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is believed to cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

AIDS is a contagious disease that attacks the body’s immune system, rendering it incapable of resisting other diseases and infections. No one is known to have recovered from AIDS.

Johnson was a patient at the Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas when the Air Force adopted a policy that held out the possibility of disciplinary action for HIV-infected military members who did not practice safe sex.

Lawyers for Johnson say he never was told about the policy.

After returning to McChord, Johnson engaged in homosexual conduct with a 17-year-old boy he had met in a Tacoma bar.

Tried by general court-martial at McChord in early 1988, Johnson was convicted of consensual sodomy. He also was convicted of aggravated assault and attempted sodomy. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The U.S. Air Force Court of Military Review threw out the attempted consensual sodomy conviction after ruling that the charge essentially duplicated the aggravated assault charge.

The court reduced Johnson’s sentence to six years, and its ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Military Appeals last April.

In seeking help from the nation’s highest court, lawyers for Johnson said the portion of the Uniform Code of Military Justice used to prosecute him for aggravated assault is impermissibly vague when applied to the possible transmission of a virus.

They said the offense of aggravated assault never was intended to be used against someone accused of transmitting a contagious disease unless there is a clear intent to spread the disease.

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