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Man with HIV who spit on police officer sentenced to five years

July 26, 2010|By DON AINES

A Washington County Circuit Court jury took about 10 minutes Monday to convict a Hagerstown man of spitting on a Hagerstown police officer, unaware that the man was HIV-positive.

That fact was revealed in court when Judge Daniel P. Dwyer sentenced Jeffrey Lynn Black, 44, of 914 Kuhn Ave., to five years in state prison for second-degree assault.

"It's on my mind ... every three months I have to go back and get tested," said Officer Richard Cook, who told Dwyer he will have to be tested periodically for at least a year.

Assistant State's Attorney Brett Wilson said before the trial started that two malicious destruction of property charges against Black were being dismissed. Following a bench conference prior to the trial beginning, Wilson told the officers who were to testify that they could not mention why Black was taken into custody or that he had an infectious disease.

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Officers went to 39 E. Baltimore St. on Feb. 21 for a report of vandalism involving Black, according to the statement of probable cause filed by the Hagerstown Police Department. Officers found Black a short distance away, handcuffed him and were putting him into a squad car when he spit on Cook, the statement said.

"He spit and caught me on the side of my face," Cook testified. "I kind of lost my cool for a bit," he testified, saying he pushed the side of Black's face against the trunk of the police car.

Officer William Spigler testified he saw Cook "wipe something off his face" and that Black then tried to spit on him. The officers testified they put a "spit sock" over Black's head to prevent him from spitting on anyone else.

Cook, Spigler and Officer Douglas Hay testified that Black was intoxicated.

In his opening statement, Assistant Public Defender Robert Sheehan told the jury that the spitting was not intentional. Black's wife, Michelle Black, testified that her husband often spits unintentionally because he has no teeth.

Wilson told the jury that Black's actions were a "flagrant violation, not only of the law, but of decency." It was only when he was being booked that Black told police he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS, Wilson said.

Black told the officers he had AIDS out of concern for their well-being, Sheehan told Dwyer before the sentencing. Sheehan had asked for the sentencing to be delayed because Black is "very sick."

"It's possible a jail sentence could, for all intents and purposes, be a death sentence," Sheehan told Dwyer.

Before he was sentenced, Black, who did not testify during his trial, apologized to Cook, telling him he did not spit on him intentionally.

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