Man accused of infecting another person with HIV charged with misdemeanor

DA's office declined to prosecute

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 is uncovering new information about a man charged with willfully exposing another person to HIV.

The accuser, who did not want to be identified, says he is devastated but trying to focus on taking care of his health.

Thomas Guerra is facing one misdemeanor charge of willfully exposing himself to another person, which is in violation of a health and safety code.

"I don't want people being hurt," the accuser told 10News. "That's the only reason I'm speaking out."

The accuser said he contracted HIV from Guerra.

Guerra, who also goes by Ashton Chavez, has a court date scheduled for Thursday.

Team 10 questioned why this is not being prosecuted as a felony. The Health and Safety Code says an individual is "guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment… for three, five, or eight years" if a person acts with intent to infect another with HIV.

"It is someone's health and potentially someone's life," said legal expert, Jessica Pride.

Pride says there is a defining difference between misdemeanor and felony.

"What it really comes down to is intent, so did the perpetrator intentionally try and give the victim HIV," she said.

Pride says that accusers also have the option of filing a lawsuit in civil court in order to recover any costs for medical bills.

Another accuser showed Team 10 text messages that he said Guerra wrote to a friend in San Francisco. In the message, Guerra texts about another sexual partner, "Of coarse (sic) he thinks I’m neg :)".

"Neg" is a reference to his HIV status.

A representative with the City Attorney's Office told Team 10 the District Attorney’s Office declined to pursue the case, sending it to the City Attorney's Office.

The City Attorney's Office sent it back to the District Attorney's Office for additional felony review, but it was returned yet again.

Team 10 contacted the District Attorney’s Office. In a statement, a spokesman wrote: "After reviewing the case, our office referred it to the appropriate prosecutorial agency. We're not able to comment on a pending City Attorney case beyond that."

Mike Giorgino with the City Attorney's Office said the defendant was in custody at one point and posted $2,500 bail.

"Our office had asked for $10,000 bail," Giorgino wrote. "There is an ongoing investigation as to whether there may be additional charges."

"It's criminal. It's sociopathic," the accuser told 10News. "(Guerra) has no understanding, any attempt to care for what these people are going through."

Guerra has pleaded not guilty.

Team 10 also contacted the local and state public health departments. A spokesperson said health officers can alert someone if they have been exposed to HIV without consent from their sexual partner. This would include a person "believed to be a spouse, sexual partner, or needle-sharing partner." All identities must remain confidential.

A spokesman with the California Department of Public Health said that California has a dual HIV/AIDS reporting system. That means both health care providers and laboratories are required to report cases of HIV/AIDS by name to the local health officer.

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