Man free of HIV-related assault charges
An HIV-positive Winnipeg man has been found not guilty of aggravated assault for spitting in the face of a city police officer.
Clifford Bear, 42, walked free on the most serious charges he was facing Tuesday after a judge ruled there was not a significant risk of spreading the disease through his actions. Bear was convicted of simple assault, along with other charges of theft and shoving a security guard inside a store where he was caught shoplifting. He will be sentenced at a later date.
The case is believed to be one of the first of its kind in Manitoba.
Bear was arrested in August 2009 after stealing some computer discs from a Main Street store. The incident took a more sinister turn when Bear told the arresting officer about his potentially life-threatening medical condition and then spat directly at him.
The officer was hit in the eye with bloody saliva and had to undergo medical treatment that included a cocktail of anti-retroviral drugs. He suffered no injury and has been given a clean bill of health, court was told.
Crown attorney Wendy Friesen argued Bear should be found guilty because he endangered the officer's life through his reckless and deliberate actions. She called an expert witness during the trial earlier this year who testified about the risks of HIV infection caused by spitting.
Defence lawyer Ed Murphy argued there was sufficient doubt about whether the officer was ever in jeopardy of contracting HIV based on his exposure to Bear's saliva.
Queen's Bench Justice Deborah McCawley agreed in a 24-page written decision released Tuesday.
"The best evidence available... is that the risk of transmission was low to negligible," said McCawley. "The Crown has not established beyond a reasonable doubt that the risk of serious bodily harm was significant."