They trusted Tech. Sgt. David Gutierrez — so much so that they had unprotected sex with him.
Two women who testified Tuesday in military court said they took the McConnell Air Force Base sergeant at his word when he told them he was "clean" and free of sexually transmitted diseases.
One of the women, from Topeka, said she believed him because "he's Air Force. They have integrity."
Gutierrez, 43, is charged with aggravated assault, accused of having unprotected sex with at least 11 people without disclosing he had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He did not make a statement in court. A decision about whether he will face a court-martial is expected in about two weeks.
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The case against him paints a picture of a lifestyle that is mostly played out in secret, where people seek out sexual partners online and meet for casual sex, often photographing and videotaping it.
Both women said they would not have had unprotected sex with Gutierrez if they had known of his HIV-positive status. One of the women said she had been tested and was negative for HIV. The other woman, from Colorado, did not indicate whether she had been tested.
They testified they had sex with Gutierrez at various locations, including at swinger parties.
Gutierrez also has been charged with violating an order by Maj. Christopher Hague, his squadron commander, to wear a condom during sex and tell partners that he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Hague testified that Gutierrez "absolutely" understood the order, issued, he said, to "safeguard public health."
Charges also include one count of obstructing justice and committing indecent acts on multiple occasions.
Evidence in the case against Gutierrez includes 165 photographs and 354 pages of data seized from computers.
Gutierrez is being defended by two military lawyers, who declined to comment Tuesday. He appeared earnest throughout the Article 32 hearing, conferring with his lawyers quietly at times.
Lt. Col. Eric Mejia, staff judge advocate at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, presided over the hearing, similar to a grand jury proceeding, and will recommend to Col. Jamie Crowhurst, commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell, about whether Gutierrez should face court-martial.
Crowhurst will review Mejia's report and either dismiss the case, refer it to a special court-martial or recommend to Lt. Gen. Robert Allardice, 18th Air Force commander at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, that he convene a general court-martial, the most serious type.
Military officials had planned to place Gutierrez in custody on Aug. 9, but he was momentarily detained at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport the day before, according to testimony.
A flier with Gutierrez's picture and information had been shared with the Transportation Security Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement because Gutierrez's wife had told military investigators his personal passport was missing from a lockbox at their home, Special Agent Richard Toth of the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations testified.
Fearing Gutierrez knew he was being investigated and would attempt to flee Wichita, officials issued a "BOLO" — or "be on the lookout" — flier. Security workers at Mid-Continent Airport recognized Gutierrez, Toth said, and detained him when he dropped off his two children at the airport. To not make him aware of the investigation, military officials instructed airport security and Wichita Police Department officers to tell him he had been detained by mistake.
That night, Gutierrez asked his wife, "What did you do to me?" and asked her repeatedly what she had told the military about him, Special Agent Derrell Freeman testified.
Freeman said Gutierrez's wife told him that Gutierrez tried to "defrag" — short for defragment — his computer's hard drive, essentially trying to erase anything that could implicate him. That included profiles on adult websites.
Gutierrez also went to the base and got a haircut, his wife said, Freeman testified, and brought home a piece of equipment that would allow him to access military sites.
Freeman testified he had instructed Gutierrez's wife to tell Gutierrez that she did not know what was going on.
Maj. Lisa Richard, deputy staff judge advocate for the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell, said at the beginning of the hearing that Gutierrez's wife had declined to testify and that the military could not compel her to because she is a civilian.