An HIV-positive homeless man was charged for reportedly raping a woman in Columbus, Georgia, on Feb. 3. Authorities responded to a call from the Homeless Resource Network about the incident. 55-year-old Joseph Lee Sims pleaded not guilty to rape, sodomy, reckless conduct HIV and giving false information to police. The woman identified the suspect and says he restrained and raped her "near the river" sometime in the morning.
“A background check is going to consider the criminal history but the warrant check is just to make sure a shelter is not harboring fugitives so it only makes sense so there’s no reason for police to come or sheriff to come to disturb all the many people there,” Homeless Resource Network Director, Elizabeth Dillard told WTVM.
Sims was taken into custody at the Homeless Resource Network later that afternoon. Columbus Police Officer Christina Lombardo says the man denied raping the female as he was being transported to jail, reports the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
Dillard says homelessness is particularly difficult for women. "For women I think it's especially hard being homeless," Dillard said. "Many of the people we see hear have had intense trauma throughout their life so sometimes it's happened when they were a child and continues through their life, sometimes it's a new experience but it's a rare person that walks through our door that hasn't experienced some rare trauma and the circumstances of not feeling safe just escalate," Dillard told WTVM.
The 55-year-old has a prior criminal background for a similar arrest. In 1996, he was arrested for HIV reckless conduct, according to jail records. An HIV test can identify antibodies as early as three weeks after contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Judge Julius Hunter ordered Sims to be held without bond and the case was moved to Superior Court. He was given a $250 bond on the false information charge, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.
“I’m going to be free one way or the other,” Sims said as he was being accompanied out of the courtroom.
Sources: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, WTVM / Photo credit: Columbus Ledger-Enquirer,via:www.americanow.com