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Airman gets 8 years in prison in HIV exposure case

By ROXANA HEGEMAN, Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. -- An Air Force sergeant convicted of exposing multiple sex partners to HIV at swinger parties has been sentenced to eight years in military prison and will be dishonorably discharged.

A court martial judge found Tech. Sgt. David Gutierrez guilty Wednesday of aggravated assault and violating his commander's order to notify partners about his HIV status and use condoms.

Lt. Col. William Muldoon delivered the sentence after a brief hearing. The airman had begged a judge not to discharge him so he could keep his military medical benefits.

Several people who participated in swinger events with Gutierrez and his wife testified this week that they never would have had sex with him had he revealed he was HIV-positive.

Earlier Wednesday, Gutierrez sobbed as he begged the judge to let him keep his military medical benefits.

In his first public comments, Gutierrez said he was willing to spend more time in jail rather than lose the benefits he needs following his court martial.

"The possibility of a future without assistance does scare me - scares me to the core," he tearfully said. "The cost of medicine is very expensive and I don't know if I can afford it."

Muldoon earlier found Gutierrez guilty on seven of eight counts of aggravated assault and violating his commander's order to notify partners about his HIV status and use condoms. The judge also convicted Gutierrez of indecent acts for having sex in front of others and eight counts of adultery.

Gutierrez, 43, apologized to the court, the Air Force and his sexual partners. He said he thanks God every day none of his partners contracted the disease and asked the judge to have mercy on him so he can live to see his two children graduate from college and get married.

Prosecutors, who sought 18 years imprisonment and a punitive discharge without any veterans benefits, argued that Gutierrez played Russian roulette with his sexual partners' lives.

"The accused was not thinking about how his victims would pay for their medications," Capt. Sam Kidd said.

Defense attorneys asked for imprisonment in the "single digits" and pleaded with the judge not to impose the punitive discharge that would strip his benefits.

"He is looking at his own mortality as he looks down the road," said defense attorney Maj. James Dorman.

A Wichita woman who said she has lived a swinger lifestyle for six years returned to the stand during Gutierrez's sentencing hearing to give a victim impact statement, saying she found out from news reports about the case that she had been exposed to HIV.

"Actually I started crying," she said. "I was kind of mortified."

Several people who participated in swinger and partner-swapping events with Gutierrez and his wife testified this week that they never would have had sex with him had he told them he was HIV-positive.

Gutierrez repeatedly denied that he was infected, and he was encouraged by his wife to carry on with swinger events, several witnesses testified during the airman's court martial at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.

Gutierrez originally was charged with 10 counts of aggravated assault and with violating his squadron commander's order to notify partners about his HIV status and use condoms. The judge granted a prosecution request to drop two of the assault charges Wednesday.

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