A man convicted of murder through HIV transmission could spend the rest of his life in jail after an Ontario court ruled that he can’t be trusted to disclose his condition to future sex partners.
Justice Thomas Lofchik on Tuesday granted the Crown’s request to have Johnson Aziga declared a dangerous offender, a designation that means he could be jailed indefinitely.
“I must consider that the offender has a multi-year history of deception,” Judge Lofchik told the court.
Mr. Aziga, believed to be the first person in Canada convicted of murder through the spread of HIV, has sworn to warn potential partners that he is HIV positive, but to take him at his word would be “a gamble on the safety of women in this community,” Judge Lofchik said.
Mr. Aziga, a 55-year-old Ugandan immigrant from Hamilton, was convicted in 2009 of two counts of first-degree murder, 10 counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault.
He will serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years for the murder convictions.
But the dangerous offender designation means he will not be released on parole until the parole board decides he is no longer a threat.
Mr. Aziga is appealing the murder convictions, but even if he is successful, he could still be jailed indefinitely because the dangerous offender label applies to the assault charges.
His convictions are related to 11 women with whom he had unprotected sex without telling them he had HIV. Seven of the women became infected, two dying of AIDS-related cancers.
Mr. Aziga admitted he had unprotected sex with the women without disclosing his illness, but maintains he can’t know for sure that he was the one who infected them.
After the decision was handed down on Tuesday, an agitated Mr. Aziga gave a rambling statement to the court, saying he wanted to renounce his Canadian citizenship and serve his sentence in Uganda or Kenya.
Mr. Aziga said while he “betrayed the trust of many,” he is not admitting any legal liability, adding that his “conscience is clear, unambiguous and unmistakable” on all charges.
“I did not deliberately pass the HIV to any of my sexual partners,” he said, blaming a range of “socio-ethno-cultural barriers” for his decision not to disclose his condition.
“I do not accept that any reasonable person would conclude that I am in fact guilty,” he said.
“If any reasonable person could conclude that I am in fact guilty of all the convictions that still stand in this case against me, I think that same reasonable person would conclude that I have been reasonably punished for a medical condition.”
Mr. Aziga, who has been in jail since his arrest in 2003, said his family has “suffered deeply” during his absence.
The father of three also asked to have “HIV positive” tattooed on the palms of his hands “so I can easily show it,” but Judge Lofchik refused to grant his request.
Defence lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa said his client hoped his statement would dispel “interpretations” that he doesn’t regret his actions.
“I think today he was much more forthcoming, in my view, in expressing remorse about the victims,” Mr. Hamalengwa said outside court. “He was more expansive and I think it came from deep down.”
Crown attorney Karen Shea said Mr. Aziga’s reaction to the decision showed he is still on the defensive.
“If you look at what was said during the dangerous offender application, very little more was said today in terms of not accepting responsibility and essentially blaming what occurred on a variety of factors,” she told reporters after the hearing.
During a weeks-long hearing where final arguments were heard in late June, the Crown said Mr. Aziga should be labelled a dangerous offender because his abnormally high libido could lead him to reoffend.
But Mr. Aziga’s lawyers argued his client has learned a lot about HIV and AIDS since he’s been in jail, has changed his ways and is no longer a threat to the public.
Since 1978, more than 500 people have been designated dangerous offenders in Canada.