Thomas Miguel Guerra allegedly gloated in the news that an acquaintance had tested positive for HIV. “Yay lol. Someone getting poz that day,” he texted to a friend. “Poor Sucka.”
In hindsight, however, Guerra’s text was even more twisted than it seemed at the time. Guerra himself was HIV-positive, and since then he has been accused of intentionally exposing dozens of other men to the deadly disease.
On Monday, Guerra, a 30-year-old from San Diego, was sentenced to six months in prison for knowingly spreading the human immunodeficiency virus. He maintained his innocence in court, insisting “I am not a monster” after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor health code violation.
But the judge who sentenced Guerra couldn’t hide her anger over the case, San Diego County’s first.
“I think that’s a tremendous oversight in the law if this is just a misdemeanor,” said Judge Katherine Lewis, calling the light sentence a “travesty” and openly calling for the offense to be changed to a felony.
The case against Guerra began last August, when an ex-boyfriend came forward to police accusing Guerra of infecting him with HIV. The ex claimed that Guerra had told him he was HIV-negative when they began dating in August 2013 after meeting on the gay dating app Grindr, and that Guerra had coaxed him into having unprotected sex.
But then the ex discovered messages on Guerra’s computer admitting to being HIV-positive, according to NBC San Diego. “Guerra even joked in text messages about having HIV and other people not knowing it,” the TV station reported.
In court, prosecutors presented 11,000 text messages and 36 audio clips to support their case against Guerra. But Guerra rejected blame, arguing that his ex had been “reckless.”
“If you are that reckless with your life, how can you blame someone else’s actions?” he said, according to NBC San Diego. Guerra’s attorney took a different tack, however, persuading his client to plead no contest because a jury wouldn’t understand the “dark humor” in Guerra’s texts.
Lewis said she would have liked to have slapped Guerra with a stiffer sentence but was prevented from doing so by statutes. “I don’t think in my 25-plus years in law, I’ve ever seen somebody be so lacking of insight, blame or responsibility that you have demonstrated,” she said.
Guerra isn’t the first American to be accused of deliberately spreading the retrovirus that causes AIDS. In 2011, a 51-year-old man turned himself in to authorities and claimed to have intentionally infected “thousands” of partners.
“He hits drifters,” said one of David Dean Smith’s alleged female victims. “He hits people who are young. He hits young women, and from what I understand, he hits men, too. Those are his targets.”
Last year, a Kenyan student claimed to have infected 324 men.