Jim Leljedal, media director for the Broward Sheriff’s Office, tells The Florida Independent that charges of criminal transmission of HIV filed against Daniel Hay Lewis are not false.
Leljedal confirmed that the sheriff’s office requested on Wednesday that the Broward state attorney’s office drop the charge of criminal transmission of HIV against Lewis.
“I understand there has been a change, but it is not in our purview whether charges get filed or dropped over at the courthouse, but the charges were filed because he [Lewis] indicated he had AIDS and attempted to bite the deputy,” Leljedal says. “That is a crime.”
“If you tell me, ‘I have AIDS and I am going to bite you,’ that is a serious threat and if I were going to arrest you I would charge you,” Leljedal adds.
According to a “Broward Sheriff’s Office Event Report” filed on May 31, when officer Mario Torres arrived at the scene of the arrest, Lewis was on his back being held down by Home Depot security guards. The report adds that Lewis was saying many incoherent things and he also stated several times that he had AIDS.
The report also indicates that after struggling with Lewis, two corporals and another deputy shackled him.
Jason Blank, the assistant public defender representing Lewis, wrote to the Independent last week that sworn allegations in an arrest report about Daniel Hay Lewis’ infection with HIV are lies and illegal. Blood tests have shown that Lewis is not HIV-positive.
Leljedal counters that the arrest report signed by officer Frank Pennachio contains no false statements, adding, “We would never deliberately do that.”
Blank added in his written statement that the charges of criminal transmission of HIV that Bio Helpers cleaned up are being used to cover up the excessive use of force during Lewis’s arrest.
Leljedal says there was no excessive use of force, adding that some force was necessary to apprehend Lewis, who resisted and fled. “He did not go peacefully,” Leljedal says.
The HIV criminal charges moved Michael Rajner, legislative director of the Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus, to speak directly with Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti.
As reported by the Independent, Rajner said that Sheriff Lamberti shared his concerns that the charge, based on the information provided, did not appear to be appropriate. Lamberti also agreed, according to Rainer, to develop an initiative to educate his deputies properly on how HIV is transmitted, especially when it pertains to the Florida statute for criminal transmission.
Leljedal tells the Independent he has no details about Lamberti’s plans to increase HIV training for Broward County law enforcement officers.
“We have policies and training now, through the sheriff’s office and the police academy, but there is no change in policy at this point,” Leljedal says.