In early June, The Florida Independent’s Marcos Restrepo began blogging about HIV criminal charges brought against Daniel Hay Lewis, a South Florida man who allegedly bit an officer during a shoplifting arrest.
Restrepo first placed the charges in the context of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data demonstrating that it is nearly impossible for a bite to transmit HIV. He went on to question whether Lewis was receiving proper health care while incarcerated and documented Florida’s extraordinarily high percentage of inmates with HIV and AIDS. Restrepo then interviewed LGBT and health advocates who spoke out about the case, saying the charges were inappropriate and an instance of “prosecutorial hysteria.”
Reaction was immediate. Michael Rajner, the legislative director for the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus and a member of Broward County’s Council for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, called Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti and an assistant state attorney at the Broward County State Attorney’s Office to discuss Lewis’ case.
“Sheriff Lamberti shared my concern that this charge, based on the information provided, did not appear to be appropriate,” Rajner said. “In my conversation with Sheriff Lamberti, he agreed to develop an initiative to educate his deputies properly on how HIV [is] transmitted. … The sheriff further added that he would also like to approach the police chiefs’ association to ensure local police departments were better educated.” Rajner personally thanked Restrepo for bringing the issue to his attention.