January 19, 2011

8 women testify in Air Force sex case

Eight women testified Tuesday about their sexual encounters with an HIV-positive sergeant at McConnell Air Force Base, painting a picture of a lifestyle where parties and rendezvous centered on casual sex were common.

Eight women testified Tuesday about their sexual encounters with an HIV-positive sergeant at McConnell Air Force Base, painting a picture of a lifestyle where parties and rendezvous centered on casual sex were common.

Some of the women said Tech. Sgt. David Gutierrez used condoms; others said he did not.

All said they would not have had sex with him knowing he had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.

All also said they had tested negative for the virus.

A woman who now lives in Oklahoma said she believed Gutierrez was free and "clean" of any sexually transmitted diseases.

"I had no reason to doubt him," she said. "Naive of me, but. . . "

She said she met Gutierrez, who pleaded not guilty Tuesday to all charges, in May 2009 at a party in Goddard. The other women told similar stories. Some had sex with Gutierrez with their husbands present.

The court-martial against Gutierrez will continue today with testimony from Donna Sweet, a Wichita physician who specializes in HIV and AIDS care.

Gutierrez faces 10 counts of aggravated assault, one count of violating an order to practice safe sex and disclose his status to partners, one count of indecent acts and nine counts of adultery. He had faced an 11th count of aggravated assault, but that count was dropped, as was a charge of obstruction of justice.

500 contacts online

Investigators said they initially identified 500 contacts between Gutierrez and others on adult websites who could have been victims. They were able to identify just less than a dozen people who said they had sexual encounters with Gutierrez after he moved to Kansas.

Gutierrez, in custody on base since Aug. 9, remained stoic throughout the hearing. Gutierrez is represented by two military lawyers.

Capt. Aaron Maness and Maj. James Dorman unsuccessfully sought to dismiss the aggravated assault charges against Gutierrez, saying that even if he had disclosed his HIV status, he still could have been charged with the crime.

"So basically my client is faced with the choice of never having sex again" or being charged with aggravated assault, Maness said, arguing that violated Gutierrez' constitutional rights.

Capt. Sam Kidd, one of the prosecutors, said Gutierrez's partners could not have given "full and mutual consent" because he had never divulged his status.

"The accused had everybody fooled," Kidd said.

Gutierrez ignored an order from his commander to practice safe sex and inform partners he was HIV-positive, Kidd said. Gutierrez was diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2007 while stationed in Italy, Kidd said.

Despite the order and medical treatment and counseling, "he and his wife continued to engage in the swinger lifestyle," Kidd said, later adding, "When confronted specifically about his HIV status, he lied."

Special Agent Richard Toth said the case against Gutierrez started July 22, 2010, when Gutierrez's wife became a witness and identified partners who could have been exposed to HIV. She gave investigators photographs and information about her husband's profiles on adult websites, including one Toth described as the "Facebook of sex."

Investigators interviewed about 100 people in the case, Toth said, and searched Gutierrez's computers. He said Gutierrez had chatted with about 500 people online.

Testimony of partners

The first woman to testify Tuesday said she and her husband met Gutierrez in the spring of 2009 after exchanging e-mails. They met at an Applebee's to see if they would be compatible as sexual partners. They later met for New Year's Eve and swapped spouses. The woman said she had sex with Gutierrez, and her husband had sex with Gutierrez's wife.

Gutierrez used condoms, she said.

She cried quietly throughout her testimony.

Other women described unprotected sex with Gutierrez, saying they were at times drunk during their encounters.

Two of the women said their brothers had AIDS and, having watched them suffer from the disease, would never have knowingly had sex with someone who was HIV-positive.

One of the women said she and her partner met Gutierrez and Gutierrez's wife at a Burger King after first conversing on an adult website. They met again two or three weeks later at Gutierrez's home, she said.

The woman said she never worried about her health because Gutierrez's wife was a registered nurse and "David was military."

Another woman said she initially met Gutierrez and his wife at a birthday party for her cousin attended by other family members, including her father. She said she and her husband had conversed with Gutierrez online and suggested meeting at the party, which was at a bar. They had sex together that night, she said, and also later on New Year's Day.

Another woman said she learned that Gutierrez was HIV-positive when she found a piece of paper indicating his test results. The woman said she had taken Gutierrez's wife to the emergency room, driving the wife's car. Gutierrez's wife showed her where the registration and insurance papers were in the glove box, the woman said. She said her boyfriend at the time came across the test results among papers in the car.

"At first I was shocked," she said.

She said she called her ex-husband, who later told others. She said she was concerned about others' safety because Gutierrez had planned to attend an upcoming swinger party.

Her ex-husband later testified, identifying himself as a hostile witness. He became emotional several times and told the judge, Lt. Col. William Muldoon, that he wasn't hostile toward him or the lawyers, but "toward that man right there," pointing to Gutierrez. "What he did was wrong."

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