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State v. Rick

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 21, 2013

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Daniel James Rick, Respondent.

Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Elizabeth R. Johnston, Jane N.B. Holzer, Assistant County Attorneys, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.

Grant S. Smith, Landon J. Ascheman, Ascheman & Smith, LLC, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

Lynn Mickelson, Minnesota AIDS Project, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Jerry A. Burg, The Uptown Business Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota AIDS Project.

Benjamin J. Feist, Sandra E. Feist, Grell & Feist LLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Alan E. Schoenfeld, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, New York, New York; and Christopher E. Babbitt, Susan S. Friedman, Gerard Sinzdak, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, Washington, D.C., for amici curiae The Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, The HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.

Teresa Nelson, American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota; Scott A. Schoettes, Christopher R. Clark, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chicago, Illinois; and Leslie Cooper, Chase Strangio, American Civil Liberties Union, New York, New York, for amici curiae ACLU, ACLU of Minnesota, Center for HIV Law and Policy, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and OutFront Minnesota.

Gildea, C.J. Took no part, Stras, and Lillehaug, JJ.

SYLLABUS

1. Minnesota Statutes § 609.2241 (2012), which makes it a crime for a person who knowingly harbors an infectious agent "to engage in behavior that has been demonstrated epidemiologically to be a mode of direct transmission" of the infectious agent, if the crime involved the "transfer of blood, sperm, organs, or tissue, " is ambiguous because it is subject to more than one reasonable interpretation.

2. Consistent with the rule of lenity and relevant legislative history, Minn. Stat. § 609.2241, subd. 2(2) applies to the donation or exchange for value of blood, sperm, organs, or tissue. Because respondent's conduct did not involve the donation or exchange for value of his sperm, there is insufficient evidence to support respondent's conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.2241, subd. 2(2).

Affirmed.

OPINION

GILDEA, Chief Justice.

The State of Minnesota challenges a decision of the court of appeals reversing respondent Daniel James Rick's conviction of attempted first-degree assault by communicable disease, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.2241 (2012). A jury found Rick guilty of attempted first-degree assault by transferring a communicable disease, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.2241, subd. 2(2), which applies to the "transfer of blood, sperm, organs, or tissue." But the jury found Rick not guilty of violating Minn. Stat. § 609.2241, subd. 2(1), which applies to "sexual penetration . . . without having first informed the other person" that the defendant has a communicable disease. The court of appeals reversed Rick's conviction. Because we conclude that Minn. Stat. § 609.2241, subd. 2(2) applies to the donation or exchange for value of blood, sperm, organs, or tissue and therefore does not apply to acts of sexual conduct, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals.

In early 2006, Rick learned that he is HIV positive and received counseling as to the means of transmitting and preventing transmission of the disease. In early 2009, Rick met D.B. through a social website. Rick and D.B. engaged in consensual sexual activity on several occasions. During these sexual encounters, Rick either ejaculated inside D.B.'s rectum or outside of and onto D.B.'s body. In October 2009, D.B. tested positive for HIV. The next month, D.B. and Rick again engaged in consensual anal intercourse and ejaculated inside each other.

The State charged Rick with one count of attempted first-degree assault by communicable disease for violating Minn. Stat. § 609.2241, subd. 2 ("the communicable-disease statute"). As relevant here, subdivision 2 defines two different acts that are criminal when committed by a person with a communicable disease. Under subdivision 2(1), "sexual penetration" with another without first disclosing the presence of the disease is a crime. Id., 2(1). And under subdivision 2(2), the "transfer of blood, sperm, organs, or tissue" is a crime. Id., 2(2). The State alleged that Rick attempted to transfer a communicable disease to D.B. by either sexually penetrating D.B. without first ...


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