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HIV ruled deadly weapon in rape

Published Oct. 6, 2005

A man who knew he was carrying the AIDS virus has been convicted of attempted murder for using the disease as a deadly weapon against an 11-year-old boy he kidnapped and raped.

Attorneys in the case and other legal experts believe Monday's verdict, which accepts the virus as a deadly weapon, is the nation's first attempted-murder conviction for an HIV-positive rapist.

"I'm not aware of another case that went to verdict and a conviction," defense attorney Jay Levine said Tuesday. "These circumstances have been different from any that had ever been litigated." He plans an appeal.

Ignacio A. Perea Jr., 32, was convicted under a felony attempted-murder rule of attempted murder, kidnap, sexual battery (the Florida rape statute), and lewd and lascivious assault.

The boy was kidnapped by two men while riding his bicycle in September 1991. Blindfolded and taken to a warehouse, he was raped and forced to perform sex acts on the men. No accomplice has been identified.

Perea faces similar charges involving 11- and 13-year-old boys in November 1991. The three boys have tested negative for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

"Some people think we are criminalizing a disease. We are not doing that," said prosecutor Susan Dechovitz. "We just expect people to act responsibly, as they do in other situations."

The six-member jury deliberated for 45 minutes before returning with the guilty verdicts against Perea, who faces at least 25 years in state prison. He will be sentenced March 24.

When Perea was arrested, police found a clinic receipt in his pocket indicating he had tested positive for HIV.

The defense claimed Perea was a victim of mistaken identity.

The other two boys testified under a ruling allowing the jury to hear about the related charges and identified Perea as their assailant.

Perea was arrested based on a convenience store surveillance picture of the assailant standing behind one of his victims at a gas station convenience store.

Dechovitz described the assaults as "innocence lost" and said the middle-school aged boys were "forced to face the possibility of the incurable."