Rhoades v. State of Iowa, Reply Brief of Appellant Nick Rhoades, Supreme Court of Iowa, Glazebrook & Moe, LLP, Lambda Legal (2012)

Pleadings and Briefs

Nick Rhoades's reply brief to the Supreme Court of Iowa in his 2012 appeal of the denial of his application for post-conviction relief. In 2008, Rhoades was convicted of criminal transmission of HIV under Iowa Code § 701C.1 after a one-time consensual sexual encounter that occurred prior to disclosure of his HIV status. 

In his reply brief, Rhoades reiterates his arguments: that the plea colloquy conducted by the trial court did not establish a factual basis for the elements of the crime with which he was charged, and that there is no factual basis for the State to convict him for intentionally exposing his partner to his bodily fluids in a way that could transmit HIV. Based on this, Rhoades argues he is entitled to withdraw his guilty plea.

Rhoades dismisses the arguments the State set forth in its response brief, stating that this case does not require the Supreme Court to determine whether prejudice resulted from the inadequate plea colloquy nor to determine whether Iowa Code § 701C.1 is a specific or general intent crime. Rhoades contends the Supreme Court previously identified the mens rea for this crime in State v. Musser, and the case law from other jurisdictions to which the State cites is not controlling, persuasive, or relevant. Rhoades also objects to the State's argument that the legislative intent of Iowa Code § 701C.1 is to criminalize all sexual activity by persons living with HIV who do not disclose their status, stating that this contradicts the plain language of the statute.

Finally, Rhoades argues that "[t]he State ignored the most probative piece of evidence regarding intent – the use of a condom." He and his partner engaged in a single sexual encounter – not three separate sexual acts, as the State alleged in its response brief – during which they engaged in oral sex without ejaculation as a precursor to anal sex with a condom. Rhoades argues that by considering the totality of the circumstances, it is clear he took affirmative steps to avoid exposing his partner to his bodily fluid in a way that could transmit HIV. He dismisses the State's assumptions regarding pre-ejaculatory fluid and HIV transmission as lacking supportive legal or medical authority.

The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, the Center for HIV Law and Policy, and the HIV Law Project submitted an amicus brief in support of Rhoades's appeal. Amici argued that Rhoades's conduct is consistent with Iowa state and federal public health policies and practices that encourage risk reduction through condom use and other safer sex practices, and that encourage, without mandating, an individual's disclosure of HIV status to partners.