Crime & Courts

Sergeant faces Oct. 5 hearing in HIV case

He bragged about his sexual escapades, photographing and videotaping them, and didn't tell his partners in the Wichita area that he was HIV-positive, court documents say in the case against a sergeant stationed at McConnell Air Force Base.

Now, Tech. Sgt. David Gutierrez faces an Oct. 5 hearing in military court similar to a civilian grand jury. Late Monday, military officials charged him with aggravated assault for having unprotected sexual relations with at least 11 people without disclosing his HIV status, violating an order to tell partners about his HIV status and to practice safe sex, committing indecent acts on multiple occasions, adultery and obstructing justice.

The Article 32 hearing will determine if there is sufficient evidence to refer the case to a court-martial, Lt. Col. Andree Swanson said in a news release Tuesday.

Swanson said that if Gutierrez were found guilty of all charges by a general court-martial, he would face a dishonorable discharge, a maximum of 53 years and six months confinement, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction to the lowest enlisted grade.

Gutierrez has been confined at McConnell since Aug. 9. An Air Force lawyer assigned to represent him did not return a phone call Tuesday.

Gutierrez, who is assigned to the 22nd Maintenance Operations Squadron at McConnell, attended swinger parties where promiscuous sex is commonplace and used adult websites to find partners, according to documents that were briefly available on the U.S. District Court's website and were published on TheSmokingGun.com.

He didn't wear condoms, and he didn't warn people they might get infected, charging documents say.

Health officials worry that people may not know they've been exposed.

Cody Patton, executive director of Positive Directions, a Wichita nonprofit that provides services for people with HIV and AIDS, said the case shows that HIV affects people from all walks of life.

"Who would have thought, an Air Force sergeant?" he said Tuesday.

Patton said that although people may not relate to swinger parties, they might engage in one-stand stands at bars that could put them at the same level of risk.

He said people — both in this case and in general — may be afraid to be tested because of the stigma of being HIV-positive.

But testing is crucial to stopping transmission of the disease, often spread by people who don't know they are HIV-positive, Patton said.

The case against Gutierrez, who has served in the Air Force since 1990, began in July when the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations received information accusing him of engaging in promiscuous sex the past three years.

His wife, documents say, said her husband became infected with the virus that causes AIDS in 2007 while stationed in Italy.

His wife said Gutierrez, listed as 43 years old on public records websites, was honest with people at first. He stopped being so, she said, when he transferred to McConnell in 2008, the documents say.

Among Gutierrez's alleged victims are a 44-year-old Winfield woman he met on an adult website. The woman, not knowing Gutierrez was HIV positive, met him in June or July 2009 at a swinger party at "The Barn" in Goddard, documents say.

A 44-year-old Wichita woman said she met Gutierrez through a website and went to his home on Thanksgiving last year and had unprotected sex with him, documents say.

The documents TheSmokingGun.com posted online say that a review of Gutierrez's alleged Internet activities showed he was "active on multiple adult web sites used to facilitate meetings between like-minded swinging couples and singles. Based upon posted profiles (Gutierrez) appeared to be actively seeking sexual partners in the Wichita . . . area and posted comments which indicated he possessed videotapes and photographs of himself engaged in sexual activities."

According to one profile on adult websites, Gutierrez attended 21 Wichita area swinger parties from Jan. 17, 2009, to July 10, 2010, documents say.

About a month after the last party, investigators arrested Gutierrez at work and searched his vehicle and home on 44th Street South in Wichita.

Investigators seized computer equipment, sex toys, pornographic movies and dozens of pages of HIV-related research articles from the home, according to documents.

Air Force officials are asking anyone who might have information to call the Office of Special Investigations at 316-759-4124.

The Sedgwick County Health Department is encouraging people who think they may have been exposed to be tested.

So far this year, the Health Department has tested 3,218 people for HIV. In all of 2009, the department tested 4,155 people, said Jason Ybarra, the county's senior disease intervention specialist.

Last year, 33 new cases of HIV were confirmed in Sedgwick County. The Health Department says 729 people in the county are living with HIV or AIDS.

No appointments are necessary for testing at the Health Department's preventive health clinic at 2716 W. Central. It's open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays; noon to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays; and 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Fridays.

People with questions about any sexual transmitted infection can call the department at 316-660-7300.

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