Opinion : 272 Days in Prison - by Kenneth Pinkela

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May 2, 2013

272 Days in Prison

by Kenneth Pinkela

A U.S. Army lieutenant colonel asks for an end to HIV prosecutions in the military.

Kenneth Pinkela
Kenneth Pinkela
The following is the text of a public comment by Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth A. R. Pinkela of the United States Army before the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) on Monday, April 22, 2013:

Good afternoon. My name is Kenneth Pinkela. I am a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army and I have HIV. I am here today just three weeks after being released from an Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, after serving 272 days. I was not charged with infecting anyone, but with aggravated assault solely because of an accusation that I exposed someone to HIV.

I want to thank you—on behalf of my family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, both civilian and military, all of whom have been affected by my prosecution—for having demonstrated such leadership with the passage of the criminalization resolution at your February meeting.

What did or did not happen, between me and the person who accused me, did not matter to the Army. Two things mattered: 1) I was accused, and 2) I have HIV. The prosecution’s case was focused almost solely on proving that I had HIV; the military court would not allow my counsel to introduce critical evidence, as well as physical and medical evidence.

The prosecutor said, and I am quoting directly here, “where there is smoke there is fire...you are HIV positive so it must have been you.”

Now I am a convicted felon and registered sex offender. My 26-year career of service and sacrifice to my Nation—including a stint as the Army’s legislative liaison to the U.S. House of Representatives—is gone.

No job. No retirement benefits. No access to medical care for either combat injuries I have suffered or other health needs, like treating HIV. Not even a flag for my coffin when I die. My ability to care for my family and our future is in jeopardy. My case is pending in the military appeals process, and we pray that that process will right this wrong. But the damage that has already been inflicted on my life, family, friends and reputation can never be corrected.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) does not have an HIV specific article or statute. But individual convening authorities and military prosecutors can and do use HIV as the reason to prosecute under other articles of the code.

The UCMJ is supposed to represent the will of Congress, and of the Commander in Chief, to provide for the good order, conduct and discipline of the Armed Forces. I hope you will join me in questioning whether this kind of prosecution truly represents the will of Congress, the Commander in Chief and of the nation?”

While I realize PACHA is an advisory council to the President, I am asking that you also use the power of your bully pulpit and send a letter and copy of your resolution directly to Secretary Sebelius and to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urging their immediate attention to this injustice to those serving in the armed forces as well as to the nation.

I hope you will ask the President, my Commander in Chief, to stop these harmful prosecutions by executive order, prohibiting the use of HIV as justification for a prosecution, and protect the men and women in uniform who have HIV and serve their nation with honor everyday. I hope you will ask the Commander in Chief and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review military prosecutions based on the HIV status of the person charged and, as is appropriate, consider executive clemency, pardon or sentence reconsideration.

I am committed to helping PACHA and Members of Congress like Congresswoman Barbara Lee continue to fight to develop and pass meaningful legislation that will help protect our Nation and not discriminate people based solely on having HIV.

Thank you for your time, and thank you for your service.

Kenneth A. R. Pinkela

Search: Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, PACHA, Army, Kenneth Pinkela, criminalization

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  comments 1 - 15 (of 38 total)     next > >>

CJ, Columbus, 2015-01-10 10:56:49
Tami, your view does not take into account the rights of all of the other non-infected soldiers. The last thing I should have to worry about in combat is getting aids from the blood of one of my fellow soldiers. We have enough to deal with. You want to manage to the exception to forward your liberal agenda, I'd rather protect the majority. Unless you got aids in the line of duty, you should be put out. Your life choices should not put me at risk.

CJ, Columbus, 2015-01-10 10:50:52
The Army policy on this is stupid. Unless you contract HIV somehow in the line of duty. Then if you get HIV on your own due to your lifestyle and bad choices. You should be immediately discharged.

Tami Haught, Nashua, 2014-11-21 23:29:39
Ken, I want to thank you for your strength and courage to share your story. Sorry for the negative comments you have had to read here. Just shows how much education we have to do. Ignorance, stigma, and discrimination for plwha has not gone away. Never fear though, we have your back. HIV is not a Crime, we have to continue to fight to modernize laws and educate the public. Elliot Henney, THANK YOU for sharing the truth now, hopefully we can find a way to get justice for Ken.

Elliot Henney, Washington, DC, 2014-10-02 03:44:04
My name is Elliot Henney and I was the primary witness for the prosecution. After substantial alcohol abuse, intense counseling, and heavy soul searching in the aftermath of this case, I have decided to publicly speak out against this bogus prosecution. I was lied to by the prosecution, and my quiet life in San Diego shattered. As the openly gay son of a very accepting retired Naval Officer here in DC, this case deeply troubled me. I've always wanted to serve my country. Now is my chance.

Mel Paris, Outerbanks-NC, 2013-12-29 17:40:20
It would be great in this day age of technology if you could create a website or blog to act as a patician, where we could instantly sign online and it would be sent to the different department heads along with the President.

H.Schurmann, Amsterdam, 2013-08-31 13:03:44
Stop these prosecutions, it's a shame!

Robert T. Jenkins, Chicago Met
So much injustice in the world, yet the military service of the United States of America is governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ)--a code which allows prosecutions based on status, rather than actions. Should civilian stateside society be happy about the UCMJ-based PROSECUTIONS of STATUS, rather than actions? Battles must be fought--& not just on the battlefield

boomer212, DC/NYC, 2013-08-06 17:21:50
RE Ken's comments you have to ask yourself why then this even happened? what was the gain for the victim? obviously to me, as well as the military, you are guilty. making a decidedly poor choice and then blaming the victim is shameful. while i'm glad you served your time and now suffer consequences, it seems that this experience hasn't taught you to acknowledge your part. It's time to take responsibility, learn from this experience, and use protection next time you have sex, consensual or not.

Jeff, Washington, 2013-07-24 12:31:14
Thank you for your service to this country and for your bravery. I have hopes that blaming victims for a disease can end soon and that reason prevails.

Ralph, Providence, RI, 2013-07-21 08:31:15
Whether the accuser knew or did not know that the LTC was HIV+ (defense maintains that he was aware of the HIV status) it is up to each and every one of us to protect ourselves when having sex. This was not a case of rape, the accuser stated that it was consensual. IF a sexual act took place BOTH parties should have insisted that it was safe.

Duke, Phoenix, 2013-07-20 16:15:33
It took courage to share your story and I thank you Ken. Mostly due to fear, ignorance and prejudice, many do not understand the Socio-economic consequences HIV bring. I, Veteran,USA 1LT, lived 16 horrific years in complete silence because VA misdiagnosed me as HIV positive in 1992. Ironically, in 2008 while I was living in a homeless shelter, I learned through a different VA hospital that I am HIV negative. I would highly recommend more Veterans to come forward and share their stories. Thanks.

sakpoz, , 2013-07-19 12:12:27
Sir, thank you for your service. I too have been privy to the same type of discrimination as an AD Officer. I learned very quickly which ones where HIV phobic which they made very clear in the beginning. They made life difficult and there was nothing I could do. I too was blamed for things I didn't do but had no way to defend myself because "I was the one with HIV". I learned never to mention my status or date anyone because of the fear of someone else disclosing my status as a vengeance.

KEN, Arlington, 2013-07-17 07:31:01
First thank you to the many great comments. Let me make it VERY CLEAR to the few negative comments. 1. I DID NOT TOUCH or have unprotected sex with the complaining witness 2. My ENTIRE family was in my home and testified in DETAIL but were called LIARS 3. There was NO investigation 4. The complaining witness testified and admitted under oath to 4 Federal Felonies including lying and Identity Theft 5. There was NO CASE if HIV was NOT in the equation

Daphne, , 2013-07-04 18:12:54
Mr LTC Kenneth, First and foremost I would like to personally say thank you for serving our country. Second, it is a shame how the government treats those who have served. Regardless of whether or not you are HIV positive does not change the fact you served for our country. I think it is disgusting that a person can be discriminated against just because they carry a virus. No one who is HIV asks to be positive. I hope this battle you conquer for us all!

boomer212, nyc/dc, 2013-07-02 16:13:06
poz or not, he was WRONG and luckily convicted with that. If he was charged with passing HIV then he should be up on attempted murder but he wasn't. He's proudly walking the streets claiming HE'S the victim in all this, while disrespecting the Army he allegedly loves by posting pictures of him in uni. (Why hasn't he been discharged after his last TOD in a military prison?)Sad that aggressors can garner sympathy as a victim to their heinous crimes.

comments 1 - 15 (of 38 total)     next > >>

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