Minn. man with AIDS virus charged with having unprotected sexDULUTH - A Duluth man diagnosed with the AIDS virus has been charged with knowingly transferring a communicable disease to his former girlfriend. It’s believed to be the first such case charged in the city.
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune, Worthington Daily Globe
DULUTH - A Duluth man diagnosed with the AIDS virus has been charged with knowingly transferring a communicable disease to his former girlfriend. It’s believed to be the first such case charged in the city.
Jessie Allen Tuff, 39, who according to medical records is infected with HIV, is accused of "intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another by knowingly harboring an infectious agent and committing the act of sexual penetration with another person without having first informed the other person that the person has a communicable disease."
The misdemeanor charge is being prosecuted by the City Attorney’s Office and is punishable by a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.
Debbie Jean Miller, 50, of Duluth, whom Tuff allegedly exposed to HIV, said she has thus far tested negative for the virus.
Tuff’s ex-wife, however, has tested positive for HIV.
Miller said she has contacted five women she knows Tuff has dated to warn them of his illness, as well as a young boy he spent time with.
"All he ever said was: ‘It’s your own fault,’" Miller said of Tuff. "He doesn’t care who he gives it to. He said he doesn’t care."
Tuff, who is serving a nine-month sentence at the Northeast Regional Corrections Center for violating probation on an earlier case, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Miller told a police investigator that she had a consensual sexual relationship with Tuff from approximately October through November 2008. She said she learned the defendant was HIV positive when she read an e-mail he received from his ex-wife, which indicated he had given her a disease.
Tuff’s ex-wife provided Miller with a copy of Hennepin County medical records that indicate Tuff had been infected with HIV for more than 10 years.
Medical records obtained by police from St. Mary’s Medical Center indicate that Tuff is both HIV positive and Hepatitis C positive.
Miller said that she met Tuff when she had a mental health issue and was a client of the Human Development Center. She said he worked as a staff aide at the center’s Harmony Club, a social club for people with mental health disabilities.
Jim Gruba, executive director of the Human Development Center, confirmed that Tuff was an employee for about a month in late 2008.
"I hope that I can get some groups behind me to get this to the Legislature," Miller said, "to make some changes to where the statute has some ramifications and punishments such as felony charges."
Tuff’s ex-wife talked to the News Tribune on Friday. She asked that her name not be made public. The 44-year-old woman from Aurora said she has become a friend of Miller’s and has provided her as much information about Tuff as possible. She said she met Tuff on the Internet in January 2005. They married on March 17, 2005. She admits she didn’t really know the man she married. She said she learned he was bisexual and he had Internet relationships with men and women.
She said Tuff told her one day that he had the AIDS virus. "I wasn’t sure if he was lying or saying it because he was mad at me," she said. She was tested and discovered she had the HIV virus on Oct. 19, 2005. She left her husband in Arizona and returned to Minnesota. The couple divorced in January 2007.
"My health is pretty good," she said. "I get checked a lot and I caught it right away, and I’m doing good. But I’ll be taking HIV medicine … for the rest of my life."
"Be careful when you’re dating," she said. "If you have any kind of suspicion, make sure you check into your gut feelings and be very leery of the Internet, for sure. There aren’t just pedophiles out there; there are other people on there that will use you for other reasons."
Tuff is scheduled to be arraigned in St. Louis County District Court on Sept. 8. He has convictions for obstructing legal process, domestic abuse, felony theft, assault and aggravated robbery.