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An HIV-positive Winnipeg man has been given just short of the maximum sentence for spitting in the face of a police officer.

Clifford Bear, who is 44, was convicted of attempted aggravated assault after a lengthy legal battle that spanned several years.

Queen's Bench Justice Deborah McCawley sentenced Bear to 6 1/2 years in prison — the maximum is seven years.

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She called Bear's actions a premeditated ambush on a police officer.

Bear was arrested in August 2009 after stealing some computer discs, then he told the officer about having HIV and then spat directly at him.

The officer was hit in the eye with bloody saliva and had to undergo medical treatment; he has been given a clean bill of health.

Bear is currently serving a six year prison term for aggravated sexual assault as a result of infecting a teen girl with HIV during consensual sexual intercourse.

The sentence handed down Monday will be added to that existing term.

"I would never do anything to harm anyone with (HIV). In a way I was glad I have it `cuz the cops won't beat me up no more," Bear said in court when asked if he had any comments prior to being sentenced.

McCawley said those words show Bear continues to harbour resentment towards police.

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Bear has spent much of his adult life in custody. He was abandoned by his birth mother as a child and bounced around various placements before ultimately living on the streets, court was told.

Bear first learned he had HIV in May 2007 and was being treated with medication at the time of the incident. There was plenty of medical evidence called during the trial, including specific readings of Bear's "viral load," which showed a low rate of infection.

"When offenders try to inflict harm on us we look to the police to protect us, to keep us safe," Crown attorney Ami Kotler said Monday in requesting the maximum sentence for Bear.

"The police look to the justice system for exactly the same protection when they are victimized."

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