An HIV-infected man accused of exposing the virus to two unwitting women he met at a Bethesda bar may have exposed other women as well, a Montgomery County prosecutor said in court Monday.
“Our concern, quite frankly, is that he is a serial offender in that he continues to engage in this behavior with numerous victims in Maryland as well as Virginia,” Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Hall told District Judge Eugene Wolfe.
But the suspect, Daniel Cleaves, 28, should be considered safe, his attorney and mother told the judge, because Cleaves is a recovering alcoholic who, after a recent relapse, is firmly committed to staying clean.
“He was sober for four years, from 2009 to 2013. Fell off the wagon for approximately two months,” said the attorney, Andrew Jezic. “This was a period of a lot of drinking.”
Wolfe set Cleaves’s bond at $5,000 but imposed a number of conditions upon his release from jail. He is to stay away from women who are not his relatives and stay at his mother’s residence in Virginia. The judge left open the possibility that Cleaves could leave for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He is allowed to leave his mother’s home for meetings with his lawyer and for appointments for treatment.
Jezic asked Wolfe whether Cleaves could go to church.
“No, he’s going to have to worship at home. No church,” Wolfe said.
Neither of the victims, whom Cleaves met on different nights and had unprotected sex with, were in court. An attorney for one of them — a woman in her 30s who lives in the Bethesda area — said after the hearing that she is terrified.
“She’s scared for her health,” Josh Berman said. “She feels violated. She’s upset.”
Berman said the woman “is doing everything she can to avoid a positive test” — an indication that she is taking HIV-prevention medicine. Thus far, Berman said, she has had negative HIV tests but has been told by doctors she should be tested for six months.
“What she’s going through is something no one should have to go through,” Berman said.
The other victim is taking HIV-prevention medication, according to court records. It is not clear from records whether she is infected.
Prosecutors said the suspect is under investigation in Virginia for similar conduct. “Mr. Cleaves is a clear and present danger to the community,” said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery County state’s attorney’s office. “It’s troubling and abhorrent behavior.”
According to court papers, Cleaves met the first victim on Aug. 25, 2014, at Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle in downtown Bethesda. The two then had unprotected sex multiple times in a three-day period. At one point, after Cleaves had left the woman’s apartment, he called her back to ask her to retrieve information out of one of his bags. As she was doing so, she saw medical records showing that Cleaves was HIV positive, according to arrest records.
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me. I had to read it on the paper,” the victim told him in a text message.
After news about that case, a second victim came forward, telling detectives she earlier had unprotected sex with Cleaves twice after speaking to him at the same bar on Sept. 13.
Cleaves is due in court Nov. 14 on the first case and on Dec. 12 on the second case. He is technically charged with nine counts of transferring or attempting to transfer HIV.
In an interview after court on Monday, Cleaves’s parents, Elizabeth and Larry Cleaves, said their son is a good person who in the past has battled addiction by going to two AA meetings a day.
“He is probably one of the most loving, honest individuals you’d ever want to meet,” Elizabeth Cleaves said.