A Georgia jury found an HIV-positive pastor guilty Tuesday of knowingly exposing a woman to the disease and faces 20 years for the crime, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Craig Lamar Davis (pictured) was said to have sat motionless as the jury read guilty verdicts in two counts of reckless HIV, both of which are felonies. Deliberations took less than an hour. The case was the first of its kind in Clayton County, G., which falls in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
“We are pleased with the verdict,” said Kathryn Powers, deputy chief assistant district attorney, one of three prosecutors in the case, told the Journal-Constitution. “They (jury) were able to weigh the validity of testimony of people who don’t believe AIDS or HIV exist.”
The jury reached a verdict Friday, but wanted to sit on it until Tuesday.
Prosecutors said that Davis , who is now divorced, was a married minister when he had an affair with two women and did not tell either that he was HIV positive, according to CBS Atlanta. During his trial, Davis admitted that doctors diagnosed him with HIV in 2005. And while he admitted having sex with a Fulton County woman, the former pastor denied a sexual encounter with his second accuser, Ronita McAfee (pictured), of Clayton County.
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“As Ronita was upset, panicky, thoughts running through her mind, the defendant’s reaction was to tell her, ‘don’t worry about it. It’s not a death sentence,’” Powers said during the trail. “‘Don’t you worry about it. There is medicine you can take if you catch it early.’”
Davis’ attorney, John Turner, contended that his client never had sex with McAfee and described her as a “nutcase.”
The harsh name calling did not surprise McAfee “I didn’t not expect it,” she said. “I expected it to be said. I just stayed strong in my convictions and continuously moved forward.”
In what may have been the oddest development during the trial, an expert witness for the defense testified during that Davis’ crack cocaine use at the time may have caused him to be misdiagnosed for HIV and that no test on the market can definitively determine is someone has the virus.
“The (current HIV) test is an antibody test,” (Dr. Nancy) Banks told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after her testimony. “They don’t know where those antibodies come from. They’ve never been able to isolate the virus from the protein.”
Banks, who testified on behalf of the defense, was asked to review Davis’ medical records during the time he was alleged to have been diagnosed with the virus. On Thursday, Davis said during his testimony he had used crack cocaine.
“When I looked at the admission history and his physical exam (records), I didn’t think he had a very good history,” Banks said. “The doctor neglected to ask him pertinent questions.”
“What questions?” Baron Coleman, an attorney working with the defense, asked.
“Drug use,” Banks said, noting that crack users often develop symptoms such as thrush and certain types of pneumonia that mimic the HIV virus.
“When people smoke crack cocaine, they can develop crack lung,” Banks said. “His (Davis) X-ray was consistent with that.” She noted that the pneumosistis, a pneumonia often associated with HIV, is usually detected post-mortem. She also said that thrush, a yeast condition also associated with HIV and AIDS, is a side-effect of cocaine use.
The prosecution balked at the argument.
McAfee, 38, says she has consistently tested negative for the virus that causes AIDS, but the Clayton County woman tested positive a a year after her relationship with Davis began.
Now Davis has to defend himself against a similar case in Fulton county. He is set to be sentenced for his conviction from the Clayton County case in February.