AIDS/HIV | Crime | Health | Iowa | Law - Gay, LGBT | Law Enforcement

Nick Rhoades: Imprisoned For Months, Punished For Life, For Failure To Disclose

This link will bring you to one of the saddest stories you'll read this month. It's the story of an Iowan named Nick Rhoades; a person with HIV who has always strictly adhered to his medication regimen. In the summer of 2008, his viral load was so puny as to be undetectable.

RhoadesOne evening in June of that year, Rhoades hooked up with a man named Adam Plendl. He used a condom, but declined to disclose his status until afterwards. When Rhoades did disclose, Plendl panicked. From CNN:

Plendl, 22 at the time, says his life was forever changed ... and that he was severely depressed and suffered panic attacks while waiting to find out if he was infected.

"It was 181 days of pure fear, that six-month window when you don't know," he says.

"Individuals that are HIV positive have a moral and currently legal obligation to inform any of their sexual partners of their positive status. Individuals should have the choice as to whether or not they would engage with someone who is HIV positive when they are not. In this case, that choice -- and what I also consider a right -- was not afforded to me."

Plendl called the police. Three months after the June hookup, Rhoades was arrested, and charged with "criminal transmission of HIV" -- even though medical tests then and later showed that there was no transmission of HIV, and Plendl remains negative. Rhoades's attorney advised him to plead guilty to the charge, which he did. His bail was set at a quarter million dollars, and Rhoades couldn't pay that. He spent nine months in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, before being sentenced to 25 years in prison. That sentence was subsequently commuted to time served, five years of probation, and life on the sex offender registry. Says Rhoades:

My life is forever changed. Do a Google search for my name and some pretty horrific stuff comes up. I have had to change a private medical condition and a private life to public domain.

That's not to say I can't be happy, find employment, have a satisfying life, but it's never going to just go away.

Read all about it here.

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Comments

  1. If you are engaging in a hookup/anonymous sex it's best to assume the other person is HIV+. Also, you are way more likely to get herpes or HPV than you are HIV. Having sex with someone you just met/don't know carries a big risk. Both parties should know that.

    Posted by: busytimmy | Aug 5, 2012 7:55:32 PM


  2. In my book, for an HIV+ person to have sex with someone and not disclose their status beforehand is unconscionable and indefensible.

    That said, the consequences in this case are absurd. The judge must have relatives on the NCAA board.

    Posted by: Anon | Aug 5, 2012 8:08:27 PM


  3. I've never known a virus to be homophobic. Therefore, it's not possible for a virus to specifically affect one community, such as the gay community.

    Posted by: jason | Aug 5, 2012 8:10:03 PM


  4. We are all responsible for our own sexual behaviors....and such you need to ask the questions. Much of you here just want to assume all is OK, stop blaming others for your poor decisions. If you engage in a sexual act and don't ask the approiate questions you have no one to blame but themselves. If you can't take responsibility for your own sexual health then you don't need to be having sex.

    Posted by: major707 | Aug 5, 2012 8:29:37 PM


  5. What would it mean that someone tells you that he is not HIV? Or that he doesn’t know? Or if he doesn’t say anything? You would act differently, that is, having risky behavior BECAUSE of someone’s claim/ignorance? Why you should know if someone is HIV? Would you AVOID doing things that you would DO with people who is HIV POSSITIVE AND DIDN’T TELL YOU SO? Why would you have a different kind of sex with someone who does NOT know that with someone who knows? Wouldn’t it be WISER to always have protected sex REGARDLESS? If you are so hypochondriac, why you have sex without waiting for your sexual partner’s test after the due window gap period to be sure? Did you know that even if a person (or your partner) is negative one day, the next day he can get infected and therefore safe sex is the only way if you want to be really sure? Did you know that having a partner does not protect you from having the same risks of the average guy if your partner –or you- cheat? Did you know that having sex with a cheater that is married to a woman/man doesn't mean he is healthy?
    People need to GROW UP. Mentally I mean. People need to take responsibility for their OWN actions instead to blaming others, in that way even if someone is ignorant about his status, you won't be in danger.

    Posted by: SAYTHETRUTH | Aug 5, 2012 8:31:56 PM


  6. He should have disclosed before they had sex. But he wore a condom and had an undetectable viral load so in my opinion it is more a matter of the other guy being uneducated and having misinfpormed views of those who have HIV which caused his "issues" and that same uneducated fear mongering caused the police to arrest the guy without any evidence that he gave the other guy HIV. The law is to charge those who were decxeitful and tried to transmit HIV to the other partner. He wore a condom so obviously he was trying to not transmit his undetectable HIV viral load to the trick I am sure he wished never happened!

    Posted by: Eric | Aug 5, 2012 8:40:42 PM


  7. "Rhoades's attorney advised him to plead guilty to the charge"

    On principle, nobody should EVER plead guilty (or no contest or Alford) to anything. The purpose of a trial is to ensure that the government has a solid case. It's not just for the defendant's benefit. It's for everyone. If a defendant pleads guilty (particularly in plea bargain) they corrupt the whole system. It's cheaper, but then most corruption is.

    Further, if the government actually had to go to trial on every case, they would be a lot more careful about who they decide to charge. This man should never have been charged.

    Posted by: Randy | Aug 5, 2012 9:18:43 PM


  8. This guy was totally wrong for not disclosing. You absolutely have a moral and ethical responsibility to disclose. His sentence was harsh. I think he deserved 5 years in prison. The sex offender list was a bit much. I feel horrible for the man who had 6 months of his life taken from him, waiting to find out if he had been infected with a disease that would cut his life short. So sad. And the fact that there are members of the LGBT community on here defending this man is truly appalling. He is wrong, wrong, wrong. If you know you are positive you have to disclose it before having sexual relations.

    Posted by: AD | Aug 5, 2012 9:20:56 PM


  9. I will never again disclose my HIV status.

    Posted by: TooBoot | Aug 5, 2012 9:45:18 PM


  10. He has a still deadly disease that can be transmitted, even with precautions. In effect he played Russian Roulette with this 22 year old kid. I can understand completely the young man's morbid fear as he waited for test results.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Aug 5, 2012 10:00:39 PM


  11. From the comments, it is clear that many posters don't understand the reality and effect of HIV criminalization statutes. SeroProject.com has documented more than 1,000 instances when HIV-specific criminal charges have been filed against a person with HIV. Criminalization laws do not achieve their intended purpose--slowing transmission--and actually do the reverse, they're a driver of the epidemic because of the extent to which they stigmatize and discourage people from testing, disclosure and accessing treatment.
    You can see more video footage about Nick's case in the film HIV IS NOT A CRIME at seroproject (dot) com. Join us in advocating to change these statutes.

    Posted by: Sean Strub | Aug 5, 2012 10:05:08 PM


  12. All of these posts are (for the most part) well thought out, However, Jeff who posted at 5:43:49 08/05/12 is 100% correct, Amen-end of story.
    Well said Jeff.

    Posted by: Iwontgrowup | Aug 5, 2012 10:15:04 PM


  13. The only way an HIV positive person can protect themself from this is to never disclose their status. There is no way to prove that any one person was the one who exposed you if you test positive. It just becomes hearsay otherwise.

    Posted by: TooBoot | Aug 5, 2012 10:19:04 PM


  14. When people get tested for HIV they should also get tested for all Herpes viruses.Eventually all HIV criminal laws will include Herpes.

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/california-court-upholds-67-million-award-herpes-lawsuit/story?id=13159756#.UB8sXkTQ3kc

    Posted by: gb | Aug 5, 2012 10:31:43 PM


  15. The perpetrator was THIRTY-FOUR.

    The potential victim was TWENTY-TWO.

    Hmmm...

    Posted by: A.G. | Aug 5, 2012 10:57:22 PM


  16. While no one is innocent here and this story was written with a bias that I'm generally uncomfortable with, I find that age has softened me to see passed it for the most part. First and foremost, the onus was on Plendl to ask just as much as it was on Rhoades to disclose. If Rhoades had lied, then, I would have less sympathy for the HIV+ man and be more supportive of Plendl. Also, if the sex had been unprotected, I would be less sympathetic to Rhoades. Nine months seems awfully excessive when all is said and done. That's a long time, people. I don't care about Plendl's six months of distress when this was a one-night stand that Plendl agreed to. Bottom-line. Own up.

    Ruling: punishment did not fit the crime.

    Posted by: Cinesnatch | Aug 5, 2012 11:06:19 PM


  17. Why isn't the subject of this story suing his defense lawyer for malpractice (assuming it wasn't a public defender)? Who pleads guilty without an ironclad deal with the prosecution on the nature and length of the sentence, and the right to withdraw the plea if the judge won't go along with the deal? Something tells me there is more to this story than Rhoades is disclosing.

    Reading comprehension fails again in America. The 25 year draconian, and likely unconstitutional sentence was modified on appeal to the nine months served. Why are you folks missing that point? The sex offender registry bit is heartland America (Iowa) at its fundie nutty worst.

    Posted by: Contrarian | Aug 5, 2012 11:12:16 PM


  18. I have never asked a random hook-up for his HIV-status. I assume that everyone is positive. For the simple reason that even someone who tested negative this morning could well carry the virus before generating the antibodies detected in most tests.

    I came of age a few years after the epidemic began when it was clear that the virus is transmitted via blood and semen. I have never had penetrative sex without a condom, even during an eleven-year committed relationship. Why? Because one of my best friends in a committed relationship sero-converted when his partner contracted the virus following a one-night stand.

    People err. They stray. They cheat. It does not make them bad people; it's human nature.

    "Disclosure" is a nice concept but it has been evoked far too often for my taste by those who justify unsafe behavior.

    Assume everyone is positive. Assume everyone strays (and accept that it is rarely personal - we're flawed creatures). Wear a condom.

    Making decisions on your health based on the disclosure of others is foolhardy at best.

    Posted by: JoshG | Aug 6, 2012 12:42:27 AM


  19. I have never asked a random hook-up for his HIV-status. I assume that everyone is positive. For the simple reason that even someone who tested negative this morning could well carry the virus before generating the antibodies detected in most tests.

    I came of age a few years after the epidemic began when it was clear that the virus is transmitted via blood and semen. I have never had penetrative sex without a condom, even during an eleven-year committed relationship. Why? Because one of my best friends in a committed relationship sero-converted when his partner contracted the virus following a one-night stand.

    People err. They stray. They cheat. It does not make them bad people; it's human nature.

    "Disclosure" is a nice concept but it has been evoked far too often for my taste by those who justify unsafe behavior.

    Assume everyone is positive. Assume everyone strays (and accept that it is rarely personal - we're flawed creatures). Wear a condom.

    Making decisions on your health based on the disclosure of others is foolhardy at best.

    Posted by: JoshG | Aug 6, 2012 12:42:28 AM


  20. "I feel horrible for the man who had 6 months of his life taken from him, waiting to find out if he had been infected with a disease that would cut his life short."

    If he had 6 months of his life taken from him, he was being irrational. They had protected sex. They took precautions. There was no Russian Roulette here. The ignorance around HIV transmission and sexual responsibility on this thread is amazing. No adult who hooks up should be presuming that sexual partner is negative, and if they can't accept the risk of having protected anal sex with a potentially positive stranger, they shouldn't be having that kind of sex.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 6, 2012 12:53:51 AM


  21. 25 years was ridiculous but the victim did ask and Rhoades lied several times, asserting that he was HIV-free. He deserves to be punished and he is a dishonest pig who is endangering other peoples' lives without their consent.

    http://www.thebody.com/content/art51841.html

    Posted by: Jason | Aug 6, 2012 1:28:48 AM


  22. Did all you queens miss the fact that a condom was used. Just what the hell did that bottom think it was for?

    Sounds like a vicious queen to me. It's waaaay past time for people like that to play uninformed about HIV

    Posted by: Harold Osler | Aug 6, 2012 1:35:35 AM


  23. Also all these commenters asserting that people with HIV have no duty to disclose are out of their minds. In many states, including Iowa, the crime of intentional or RECKLESS transmission includes failure to disclose. Many states therefore IMPOSE A LEGAL DUTY on people with HIV to disclose before having sex. In this case though, Rhoades went beyond simply failing to disclose because he affirmatively lied about his status.

    I absolutely agree with the victim that he should have the right to make an informed decision when it comes to not wanting to hook up with someone who has HIV and take the risk, however minute, of transmission. After all, even if one is engaging in protected sex, condoms break, etc. Not to mention the risk in oral sex (and no one wears a condom for oral sex).

    Posted by: Jason | Aug 6, 2012 1:37:32 AM


  24. I believe the punishment is much too harsh. You have to look at the end result. The man was not infected. I am a negative male myself and always think that if I have some kind of anal that my partner is poz. I have changed my style to 95% oral only and anal maybe 1-2x a year. I also keep PEP stock whenever I feel something could be wrong. We have all been with HIV+ men knowingly or not, so to stay negative, I am responsible. I question how this man was given such a harsh punishment and makes one think that maybe he should have never stated guilty. The law is not always fair for the act committed. Look into PEP, gentlemen. I never leave home without it and plan to stay neg. There is more to sex than anal as well.

    Posted by: blonder | Aug 6, 2012 2:53:14 AM


  25. Laws requiring people to disclose their status could only work with those who already know it. So it doesn't work in the end, not knowing is not an excuse to have risky sex.
    By the way it is true what they said: people with undetectable virus count pose practically no risk compared to those who do not know –and will claim that they are not HIV positive therefore- and that have the virus growing up in numbers, so the law is stupid. The only thing that the law should require is to have safe sex so to not expose anyone –some HIV people have difficulty in lowering their viral charge, others keep on infecting themselves with different virus strains due to keeping their risky behaviors- but the burden is shared anyways.
    I agree that some people –due to whatever ignorance, trauma, etcetera they have- feel safer thinking that their sexual partners are not HIV + and adopt the deluded thought of “I rather know” so to avoid what they usually don't avoid with others with the same or worse risk of infection. Those are first in line to make bad decisions. You should only trust in safe sex.

    Posted by: SpotOn | Aug 6, 2012 3:42:08 AM


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