AIDS activists file complaint against Larry Flynt

JOHN ROGERS  |  Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — An AIDS activist group filed a workplace safety complaint against Larry Flynt on Thursday, Aug. 26, accusing the porn king of creating an unsafe environment for his stable of sex stars by not requiring they use condoms.

To illustrate its point, the AIDS Health Foundation also delivered 100 DVDS of hardcore Flynt films to the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s Los Angeles office. Only a single scene in one of the films shows a performer using a condom, said AHF spokesman Ged Kenslea.

The films, most with innuendo-laden names, “clearly demonstrate workplace activities highly likely to spread bloodborne pathogens in the workplace,” the complaint says. It urges the state agency to order the use of condoms on film sets.

Larry Flynt Productions President Michael Klein indicated that is an unreasonable demand, adding porn audiences don’t want to watch people using condoms.

“We won’t budge when it comes to condomless productions,” he said in a statement. “That’s what the consumer wants, and we deliver it.”

Federal law requires that all porn actors be tested for HIV 30 days before the start of filming, and Klein said Flynt’s productions adhere to those standards. He added that none of the company’s actors has ever tested positive for HIV.

AHF President Michael Weinstein said his group targeted Flynt in part because he is arguably the world’s most famous and successful pornographer. Hours before filing the complaint, AHF members, clad in bright red shirts, demonstrated outside the plush Beverly Hills skyscraper that is home to Larry Flynt Productions.

Earlier this year, the group brought similar complaints against nine talent agencies it says promote actors willing to have unprotected sex on camera. Cal-OSHA spokeswoman Krisann Chasarik said Thursday those complaints prompted an investigation, although she didn’t know the status of it.

Depending on the nature of a complaint, Chasarik said, Cal-OSHA can launch a workplace inspection or ask that an employer prove the complaint is groundless.

“Our next step now would be to evaluate the complaint,” she said of Thursday’s filing.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, workers in the adult film industry are 10 times more likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease than members of the general population. The department documented 2,013 cases of chlamydia and 965 cases of gonorrhea among workers between 2003 and 2007, and noted that some performers had four or more separate infections over the course of a year.

As many as 25 industry-related cases of HIV have been reported since 2004, the department said.

—  John Wright

Man in rape case also charged with assault in connection with HIV status

Tumbwe, former minister with Potter’s House, claims sex was consensual; 2 other women say defendant didn’t reveal his status and gave them HIV

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Nathaniel Tumbwe is on trial in Dallas for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The weapon is his penis and his bodily fluids are the bullets because he has AIDS, herpes and genital warts.

According to testimony in Tumbwe’s criminal trial, Tumbwe made repeated advances to Carolyn Hudson, which she refused. In October 2008, she reported to police that he raped her in her house. She said she invited him to her home twice to discuss religion and on that second visit he raped her.

Weeks later she learned he had AIDS.

The defense claimed that Hudson simply regrets having had a relationship with Tumbwe.

Hudson is a receptionist at Potters House, a megachurch in Southwest Dallas. Tumbwe refers to himself as a reverend who was affiliated with the church at the time.

Hudson has tested negative for HIV. Two other women who contracted the virus after unprotected sex with Tumbwe will testify at the punishment phase of the trial if he is convicted.

Ken Upton, staff attorney for Lambda Legal in Dallas, said that calling the penis a weapon is unusual.

He said that Lambda Legal has filed briefs in cases where police charged someone with assault when a person with HIV that was being arrested spit on the officer. Since that is not a method of transmission and spitting is not normally seen as assault, the courts dismissed the charges.

In a 2009 case in Michigan, a man with HIV arrested for assault was also charged with bioterrorism after biting his victim. Lambda Legal filed a brief in the matter.

“This charge leads to public misunderstanding of how HIV is transmitted, contributes to stigmatizing people with HIV and undermines important public health goals,” Lambda Legal attorneys wrote in their brief.
In June 2010, the bioterrorism charge was dismissed.

But Upton warned about having unprotected sex or not revealing one’s HIV status to a sexual partner.

“Knowingly having unprotected, nonconsensual sex puts it in a different category,” Upton said.

He said in Texas it would at least be a good argument for battery.

Why Dallas prosecutors would go for the assault with a deadly weapon charge, however, when rape has severe penalties, Upton said he could only speculate. He thought they might have added the charge in order to get a plea bargain. Once the case went to trail, he suggested it might have been to further bias the jury against the defendant or simply add charges.

Jamille Bradfield is the public information officer for the Dallas County district attorney’s office. She said she could not comment on the case because the trial is ongoing.

The charge has worked in North Texas before.

In 2009, a Frisco man was convicted of six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon — his bodily fluids — because he was HIV positive. Ten women who seroconverted after having sex with him testified for the prosecution. The sex was apparently consensual. No rape was charged.

That case was the first in which DNA testing showed that the defendant was the source of the infection. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

In March, a Houston man was charged with having unprotected sex with a minor. The charges were upgraded to aggravated sexual assault when police learned that he was aware of his HIV positive status.

Enhancing the charges when HIV is involved is becoming more common according to The Center for HIV Law & Policy. They list about 60 current or recent cases across the country. Charges range from spitting and knowingly spreading infectious disease to assault with intent to kill.

The cases involving sex, rather than spitting or biting, all appear to involve heterosexuals.

The organization calls penalties for crimes involving persons with HIV “draconian,” with up to 25 years in prison even when no transmission occurred.

In the Tumbwe case, there was apparently no infection in the case of the rape victim. Hudson has not tested positive for HIV but is being told that she needs to retest once a year for 10 years.

Bret Camp, associate executive director for health and medical services at Resource Center Dallas, said that was ridiculous and unnecessary.

“Technology has advanced,” Camp said. “HIV RNA testing is now available at Nelson Tebedo Clinic through a partnership with Dallas County. It detects HIV in seven to 10 days after an exposure.”

He said for peace of mind, he’d recommend a follow-up at 60 days, but called even that medically unnecessary. He said he knows of no cases where someone suddenly tested positive years after exposure.

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has been following the Tumbwe trial and said the case is of particular interest because of the trust people place in other people involved in their church.

He said that prosecuting crimes involving churches are particularly difficult.

“Often people associated with a church are reluctant to speak up,” Clohessy said. “By cooperating with law enforcement, churchgoers are strengthening their congregations and making them healthier communities.”

And many churches are reluctant to discuss HIV prevention. By going public, Hudson may have helped open the discussion of several topics at the church including HIV testing and revealing status to partners as well as sexual abuse by church elders.

At press time, the trial was still in progress. Tumbwe faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas