HIV-positive man charged with bioterrorism

A man charged with committing an act of bioterrorism is beginning an effort in Macomb County, Michigan, Circuit Court to get his charge dismissed, and legal scholars and AIDS activist across the country will be paying attention.

The reason, the Detroit News reports, is that the act of bioterrorism happened when the man allegedly bit his neighbor's lip.

The defendant, Daniel Allen, 44, is an HIV-positive man from Clinton Township, the newspaper reports. He was initially charged with two assaults in connection with the Oct. 18 incident, the newspaper reports. When he revealed in a TV interview after the biting incident that he had the virus, prosecutors tacked on the bioterrorism charge.

The newspaper states that the law was put on the state's books in 1998 after the Oklahoma City bombing and an anthrax scare in Michigan.

"We have seen prosecutions for aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. We haven't seen any others that have used a bioterrorism statute," Bebe Anderson, HIV project director for Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, told the Detroit News.

Some Michigan lawmakers have told the Detroit News that this is a misapplication of the law.

"I don't think the intent of the terrorism law has been applied correctly in this case," Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, told the newspaper. "That's unfortunate."

Therese Tobin, chief trial attorney for the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office, told the newspaper that her office has facts to back up the charge, which would add up to an additional five years in prison should Allen be convicted of it.

"It's not like we are hunting down people who have an illness," she told the Detroit News. "It was an assault that started the ball rolling and a look at the facts that support the charges."

Activists are concerned that a conviction of Allen could perpetuate stereotypes about HIV patients and demonize those with the virus.

"The unfortunate thing is it gives credence to misconceptions about HIV and how it's transmitted," Jay Kaplan, ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project staff attorney, told the Detroit News. "People infected should never be labeled as a terrorist."