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HIV-positive man sentenced to prison for lying about illness to sex partners
  Martha Bellisle
December 7, 2005
Instead of telling his girlfriend and male lover that he was infected with the HIV virus, Dennis Guerra Jr. lied about his doctor visits, claiming he had stomach cancer, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
In response, a judge sentenced the 28-year-old Guerra to a maximum 10 years in prison for failing to disclose his deadly condition to his sexual partners. And he received another four-year sentence for having sex with a minor.
"What you did is egregious," Washoe District Judge Connie Steinheimer told the Reno man before sentencing. But as serious, she said, was that "you betrayed the people who were closest to you. And that will have a lasting impact."
Steinheimer sentenced him to five years with parole possible after serving two on the first count of intentionally transmitting the HIV virus, and 10 years with parole in two years on the second HIV transmission count. She added two to four years on the statutory sexual seduction charge.
But the judge ordered that all three sentences would run concurrently, meaning parole would be possible after two years in prison. After adding in the credit he received for the time he has already served in jail, he could be up for parole in about a year.
Before being sentenced, Guerra told the two victims he was sorry.
"Coming from my heart I apologize to (the man) for putting his life in jeopardy, and to (the woman), her too," Guerra said. "I'm sorry."
The male victim was sitting in the courtroom and had asked the judge to give Guerra the maximum sentence possible.
"I'm very hurt and mad that he did not tell me," the man said in a letter that was read to the court by a victim's advocate. "He used me and he did not have the heart and soul to tell me he had the AIDS virus.
"He is a liar and an unforgivable bastard."
None of Guerra's sexual partners have tested positive for the HIV virus, the prosecutor said.
When Guerra was arrested in November 2003 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl, he was tested at the jail for sexually transmitted diseases and found to be HIV positive, officials said.
His mother, Lyn Guerra, testified Tuesday that they met with his girlfriend the day after he was released and told her about his condition. Lyn Guerra said that they believed it was important for the young woman to know.
But when the woman called police to report Dennis Guerra Jr., she said he and his mother had told her that he was being accused of having the virus, but was denying it, Deputy District Attorney Chris Hicks told the judge Tuesday. The woman and Guerra went on to have unprotected sex, and she called the police after the two split up.
Guerra also began a sexual relationship with a man from Carson City, and had unprotected sex with him as well, Hicks said.
Guerra pleaded guilty to two counts of transmitting the virus and one count of having sex with a minor, although he had claimed that he thought she was 20.
His lawyer, Jennifer Lunt, told the judge that Guerra was intellectually challenged and emotionally insecure. He did not tell the man, she said, because he was flattered by the man's interest and feared losing his friendship. Lunt urged the judge to grant him probation.
But Hicks said Guerra was a high-risk sex offender who deserved to spend time in prison.
"The community has to be protected," Hicks said. "Engaging in unprotected sex is basically attempted murder. He deliberately and recklessly endangered their lives in four different acts."
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