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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  1. This seems like a case of guilty until proven rich. A better lawyer would have helped, but honestly, what does society gain from imprisoning an innocent man who made a mistake?

    I'm negative, but if I were positive I'd imagine that telling a person would be extremely hard. The man wore a condom, took his meds, and had sex with the wrong person. This is quite the sad story.

    Posted by: Brian | Aug 6, 2012 4:48:58 AM

  2. Good people like this should be jailed we negative people need to know whose infected before we sleep wit them I can't tell you how many people I know have been lied to by positive people and then became positive themselves this laws is the lead the government can do and personally hunk more should be done.

    Posted by: Lee | Aug 6, 2012 5:26:42 AM

  3. Most people are ignorant of the law... It's kind of like a robbery victim, attacked at gun point, who critically injures his attacker,then ends up in prison because he did not know it was "against the law" to throw a brick at the robbers head. Nick wore a he probably thought he was looking out for the other person.

    It's up to everyone to protect themselves from HIV...the other person could always be lying about their status,ignorant,drunk and forgetful, or recently infected...

    Posted by: Mike | Aug 6, 2012 7:01:10 AM

  4. I think a lot of the alarmist, paranoid and vengeful men who have commented here have not read the fuller article at the link.

    Posted by: Squeak | Aug 6, 2012 7:11:16 AM

  5. If you don't ask, I ain't tellin', deal with it.

    Posted by: TooBoot | Aug 6, 2012 7:51:08 AM

  6. A 2004 profile of Adam Plendl is here:

    Posted by: Ken | Aug 6, 2012 8:24:54 AM

  7. Not disclosing HIV+ status BEFORE having sex is despicable and should be criminal. Not 25 years in prison / sex offender criminal, more like suspended sentence (which you serve the whole thing if you do it again), major fine, and community service criminal.

    Posted by: david | Aug 6, 2012 9:33:26 AM

  8. "Disclosure goes both ways yet the stigma falls on the one with HIV."

    Because the person with HIV knows they have it! If you have HIV it is your obligation to tell your sexual partners. If you fail to do so you are risking somebody's life without their knowledge. You can argue that everybody should ask their partners status before they have sex, but if you have HIV and you purposely with hold this information you are denying your partner the opportunity to make an informed decision.

    Why would you with hold the information? To ensure you get your rocks off and don't get rejected? This is no an excuse to toy with someone's life. Everybody should wear protection regardless but fear of HIV in the gay community would be significantly reduced if men with HIV took responsibility for their actions. It is morally wrong not to tell a partner if you are HIV positive. The punishment doesn't fit the crime but I think what this man did was a crime.

    Posted by: Jake | Aug 6, 2012 10:36:50 AM

  9. I read the article and am aware he used a condom. Accidents still happen.

    He is 34 and HIV+ banging a 22 year old 'hook up'. He OF COURSE should have informed the kid he was HIV+, and the kid should have inquired. But it's criminal [literally] for an HIV+ person not to inform their 'hook ups', and rightfully so.

    Yes, 25 years was a stiff sentence. I'd also question my defense attorney.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Aug 6, 2012 10:47:17 AM

  10. Plendl is a complete f***ing idiot.

    Posted by: LittleKiwi | Aug 6, 2012 10:51:28 AM

  11. It seems to me the take-away from this story is don't get tested, that way you can plausibly say that you are negative. If you know you are positive and lie about it you could conceivably still get in trouble, so in this situation ignorance is bliss.

    This outcome could not possibly be in the interest of public health. People should be getting tested on a regular basis and not have to worry about being jailed and turned into a sex offender because they happen to hook up with an immature paranoid a**hole.

    Both parties share equal responsibility for disclosure and inquiry when having sex.

    Posted by: Steve | Aug 6, 2012 11:59:43 AM

  12. Somebody ought to track down Adam Plendl and beat the living sh*t out of him.

    Nick Rhoades is the victim here: the victim of an extremely homophobic law intended to punish anyone for simply being gay. The alleged "criminal transmission of HIV" charge against Rhoades and the life sentence imposed upon him when there was NO transmission of HIV at all is stunning in its cruelty.

    It should frighten every gay man in Iowa because all it would take is one accusation. Obviously, it would not matter if HIV or its transmission was involved or not. The Iowa law and its consequences allow for not just prosecution but persecution of every gay man.

    It's heinous.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Aug 6, 2012 12:02:54 PM

  13. Wow... so much anger in this thread.

    Personal experience story, so.. bear with me, please.

    I was infected with HIV when I was 19, in the fall of '92. My first boyfriend after my infection was in November of '93. He was also HIV+.

    He was given his diagnosis after developing diabetes, and going into a diabetic coma. He was almost "destroyed" coming out of that coma to be told, not only.. "Hey, sorry you have diabetes..." but also that he was HIV+. Now, years after that was when he and I got together, and we had a discussion about it.

    I'd asked him if he ever got tested, and he told me that he never did, because "he didn't want to know" whether he was positive or not. I asked him about using condoms (because we didn't) and he again told me he didn't use condoms. This floored me. I do not understand how anyone could be that careless. To me, that's verging on homicidal. I even asked him how many people he may have infected... he had no idea. There are people out there like this.

    Ever since my diagnosis I have told each and every partner I've had my status. Did I get refused for dates? Yep. I sure did. Did it "hurt" my feelings? Absolutely, it did. Do I have any concerns, whatsoever, that I've infected anyone else in my 20 years of being positive. Nope, not a chance.

    If you are poz, you should be completely honest with a potential sexual partner. They have the right to know... even if it's for *safer* sex.

    If you are negative, you need to ASK the damn question if your partner doesn't volunteer the info! AND THEN.. you make sure that condoms are used... period.

    Both of these guys were in the wrong. But there is no excuse for Nick Rhoades to not inform BEFORE sex that he is HIV positive, even with a undetectable viral load.

    I do feel bad for the severity of the punishment. But, I can't look past the fact that had he told Plendl before... he wouldn't have been arrested or tried in the first place.

    Posted by: theotherlee | Aug 6, 2012 1:17:14 PM

  14. These laws were written before it was discovered how low risk Undetectable people are. In fact, a Scandinavian country has decriminalized failing to disclose for Undetectable people. That said, a person could have a Viral Load spike since their last test. Also, you may want to have a LTR with that "trick" and telling them later would destroy any chance of that.

    Posted by: Sam Molloy | Aug 6, 2012 1:49:03 PM

  15. The comments show how paranoid the gay community is in regards to HIV. More people would have it if it was easy to catch...Best to lie and say your are negative than risk rejection like in these posts... scary!

    Posted by: ty | Aug 6, 2012 1:57:13 PM

  16. What the heck does this mean:

    " He used a condom, but declined to disclose his status until afterwards."

    Posted by: BobN | Aug 6, 2012 2:01:46 PM

  17. It is Absolutely unforgivable for a man that is HIV+ to knowingly have sex with someone and NOT tell them until after. You people that have "experience" with this can rationalize all you want but it is simply NOT cool. Even though the victim did not contract HIV he is still a victim. Period. Oh he didn't ask so it would be his fault if the condom broke right? Oh and those meds are not exactly cheap so unless your in the right area with the right contacts your still pretty much F****d.

    Posted by: nefter | Aug 6, 2012 2:26:21 PM

  18. @ Ty, have you ever watched a friend die of AIDS? I'm only 38 and I have...TWICE. Best to lie??? just to have sex? that is a vile and loathsome thing to say.

    @ theotherlee Thank you for sharing and big big hug :)

    Posted by: nefter | Aug 6, 2012 2:34:45 PM

  19. To all you poz guys out there, don't ever disclose or you could be put in jail.

    Posted by: TooBoot | Aug 6, 2012 3:03:39 PM

  20. The comments show how paranoid the gay community is in regards to HIV. More people would have it if it was easy to catch...Best to lie and say your are negative than risk rejection like in these posts... scary!

    Posted by: ty | Aug 6, 2012 1:57:13 PM


    "More people would have it if it was easy to catch..."

    "CDC estimates 1.2 million people in the United States (U.S.) are living with HIV infection. One in five (20%) of those people are unaware of their infection. Despite increases in the total number of people in the U.S. living with HIV infection in recent years (due to better testing and treatment options), the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. However, new infections continue at far too high of a level, with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year.

    In 2010, an estimated 47,129 people were diagnosed with HIV infection in the 46 states with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting since at least January 2007. In that same year, an estimated 33,015 people throughout the U.S. were diagnosed with AIDS. Since the epidemic began, an estimated 1,129,127 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with AIDS.

    An estimated 17,774 people with AIDS died in 2009, and nearly 619,400 people with AIDS in the U.S. have died since the epidemic began."

    Yeah, just what we need.. More people to be infected.

    "Best to lie and say your are negative than risk rejection like in these posts... scary!"

    You're absolutely right that it's scary... but the scary part is you suggesting that people lie about their status so they can get laid... consequences be damned.

    Posted by: theotherlee | Aug 6, 2012 3:05:35 PM

  21. Damn, forgot to add..

    "CDC estimates 1.2 million people in the United States (U.S.) are living with HIV infection. One in five (20%) of those people are unaware of their infection."

    That's 240,000 people.. wandering around, dipping their wick in whomever they come across with no knowledge of what they are doing. You really think it's best to think there's nothing to worry about? You think the people here are too "paranoid" .. you are either young.. or just not very bright.

    Posted by: theotherlee | Aug 6, 2012 3:08:26 PM

  22. After reading these comments, it is easy to see why HIV infections are trending back up. There are 2 answers to HIV status: Yes, and I Don't Know. People who can answer Yes are morally obligated to inform their sex partners, so they can make an informed decision. I don't care how many condoms or other forms of protection are used.

    Posted by: PDX Guy | Aug 6, 2012 3:43:44 PM

  23. The lack of compassion in some of the posts both here and on CNN's website is disheartening.
    This kond of outrageous sentence -- for "transmitting HIV" when no Virus was transmitted -- does nothing to protect the public.

    If someone who KNOWS he is HIV positive is a criminal for not disclosing, then why is not everyone who DOESN'T know for sure not a criminal for not disclosing their own sexual histories?
    I had a friend whose brother died of AIDS, and her rule pf thumb was to never have sex with anyone until both parties have NOT ONLY been tested but have also then been sexually inactive AFTER the test for six months.
    And what if Plendl goes out tomorrow and asks a new sexual partner "are you HIV positive?" and the new partner says, "Well, I've never been tested, so let's assume I'm not.". Will he feel safe?
    What if the answer is, "Well, I got tested four months ago and I was negative then, so i would like to assume I'm negative now.". Will THAT person also be held criminally responsible by Plendl if Plendl doesn't ask follow up questions like "have you been sexually abstinent since then?"

    And why is HIV apparently in a category all by itself? Anyone who has ever had a cold sore is a lifelong carrier of the herpes virus, and anyone who has contracted HPV (by the end of thos sentence, I've included most of the US population) could contribute to a partner's eventual death by cervical or anal cancer. Why has no one (let alone the majority of the US population) been put in solitary confinement for not exposing their own detailed viral and sexual history before every sexual encounter.
    I am inclined to believe it has something to do with honophobia and the connection in the public mind between gay men and HIV.

    I've never gone home with a stranger and had ansl sex with him, with or without the dubious protection of a condom. If I were to doso and contracted HIV or HPV or herpes or anything elae, I certainly would not think that none of the responsibility falls on my own shoulders.

    Plendl was not a child and should have protected HIMSELF.

    Posted by: GregV | Aug 6, 2012 3:45:51 PM

  24. There is thing called an "appeal", though pleading guilty is a bad idea in most cases if you need to appeal. I guess he can claim bad attorney advice.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 6, 2012 3:57:45 PM

  25. I believe in disclosing if you are HIV-positive. However, if you're doing safer stuff and the idiot 22yo DOESN'T ASK first, this is not a legitimate crime. I hope the 22yo eventually realizes what a scumbag he is.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Aug 7, 2012 8:20:47 PM

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