Published October, 2015

Riley v. State, 2014 WL 1016240 (Tex. Crim. 2014)(not designated for publication).

The Court of Appeals upheld Riley’s sentence of 70 years imprisonment for each of two counts of aggravated assault of a child with a deadly weapon, to be served concurrently, and a fine of $5,000.

Graham, aged 15 at the time, placed an advertisement on Craigslist stating he was 18 and seeking males to engage in sex. Despite learning that Graham was a minor, Riley agreed to meet him and engage in sexual activity. Graham was “unable to positively identify” Riley in two line-ups, but he testified that Riley had never disclosed his HIV status.

If Riley had been charged with sexual assault under Tex. Penal Code Ann. §§ 22.011(a)(2)(A),(E), 12.33(a) (2014), the sentence would have been 2-20 years for each count. However, the prosecutor charged him with “assault with a deadly weapon,” alleging that his HIV status was the “deadly weapon.” As a result, Riley received a greater and disproportionate punishment due to his HIV status and antiquated laws.  The Positive Justice Project (PJP) advocates for changes in the law to prevent unjust punishment such as was received in this case.  These changes include more equitable laws that require proof of intent to transmit HIV and are based upon current scientific understanding of the medical impact of HIV.