The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office this week enhanced the charges against a gay man who allegedly had sex with a minor. The defendant’s attorney contends the added charges are related to the man’s HIV status.
Delaware police arrested Newark resident Christopher Steele, 33, last month on statutory-rape charges for allegedly having sexual relations with a 14-year-old boy he met on social-networking app Jack’D.
Steele’s attorney, Kevin Mark Wray, said prosecutors in Montgomery County, where the boy lives, last week added reckless-endangerment charges to Steele’s case because the defendant is HIV-positive.
Steele is being held in a Montgomery County prison on $1-million bail.
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.
Wray said Steele, who works in the adult-film industry, was using the app last spring to meet men and maintained his client attempted to end relations with the teen when he realized he was underage.
“At some point, he came to the realization that this person wasn’t 18 and took off,” Wray said. “This kid kept pursuing him and apparently had done so with others.”
Wray said Jack’D requires users to verify that they are over age 18.
Steele has been HIV-positive for six years.
Wray said he believes his status was disclosed during intake after his arrest.
Wray contended that the reckless-endangerment charge is inappropriate if motivated by Steele’s HIV status.
“It bothered me a great deal and seemed to be offensive,” he said. “He takes medication and is constantly moderating it. Charging someone with [reckless endangerment] because they are HIV-positive is homophobic and ignorant. We don’t go to people who have herpes, colds, Strep throat and charge them. If that is the standard, they need to be indicting everybody. It’s amazing that, 35 years later, the public is still oblivious to the simple fact that HIV does not equal AIDS.”
Steele faced a preliminary hearing Jan. 6 and will return to court Feb. 27.