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 16 - 30 (of 38 total)     << < previous next > >>

Krido, Baltimore, 2013-07-01 00:25:32
Oh my God. This is really sad. I can't believe that's its that easy to ruin a persons life work and future. I really don't know what can be said except please someone protect our people serving.

MAT STRAZZ, BOSTON MA USA, 2013-06-30 17:30:17
I feel bad that you have HIV, as I do. My understanding is that anybody with HIV, is unfit for duty. Unless the military has changed this. When you found out that you had HIV and informed your commander, they would have done a medical discharge. Military law is very different from civil law. The rules may be harsh, but work to change them. They can tell if you infected someone, by comparing the HIV strains in your body and his, they can tell who infected who or not.

JJO, Longview, 2013-06-28 15:16:28
Fear and ignorance are pervasive and its almost impossible to convince the scared people that you CAN have "unprotected" sex and still NOT transmit the virus. How is this accomplished? Well, I just exited a "sero-diverse" relationship of 10 years and my partner is still negative to this day. I always made certain I never climaxed inside of him. Its THAT simple. People are going to prison even if no infection has occurred (and that was with condom usage)..

Big Army, , 2013-06-25 11:10:27
Pinkela had unprotected sex and failed to disclose his POZ status. The lemmings repeat the "innocent until proven guilty" mantra, but completely ignoring the fact that he WAS proven guilty in court. You may want to shift the burden to his partner - "he should have asked" - but everyone is whitewashing over the fact that Pinkela shirked his OWN responsibility. I suggest you all read the trial transcript before jumping blindly on the bandwagon. And give some thought to the man he put at risk.

Poz, , 2013-06-22 00:26:55
Thank you for what you are doing and incredibly sad that this happened to you. I am HIV+ and an Army LT and scared to death the same would happen to me. Thank you for standing up for being a brave American and standing up for other like ourselves SIR.

annoyed, , 2013-06-13 08:36:16
No, "realist", I don't think we're "overlooking" that he (allegedly) failed to tell. We're just acknowledging the fact that he probably wasn't infectious and that when a gay man wants casual unprotected sex, it's reasonable to assume they're poz anyways. It's not like HIV is some rare bird in the gay community, so Pinkela is basically being prosecuted when there was no harm and no reasonable expectation of possible harm. What next, are we also supposed to be arrested for spitting? Oh, wait..

Realist, Washington, DC, 2013-06-12 09:53:15
In the lemming-like rush to decry Pinkela's prosecution, everyone seems to overlook the fact that he had unprotected sex with another individual and failed to tell that person that he was POZ.

robin krumbhaar, Bloomington, 2013-06-11 12:27:03
This is a disgrace.It makes me ashamed of our aim force. This person or other put their sel on line or us. I think it wrong for our country turn their back on people live with HIV. Think should give all rights and beneits back.

shane, dallas, 2013-05-20 21:26:34
As a veteran of the military and now a civilian we all have rights. The law states we are innocent until proven guilty. I say if he is innocent he deserves everything to be reinstated and after 26 years of service he's a hero to me. God bless you!

Seabert Booher, Philadelphia, 2013-05-20 18:16:52
This so foolish, under-educated people is all I can say. It is time for the discrimination of people having HIV to be stopped. We are trying to stop bullying and thing of this nature, so tell me what is the difference?

Micael Perkins, Las Vegas, 2013-05-16 21:18:18
This is just ridiculous. Once again a persons' life is permanently marked in a negative way due to ignorance. I deeply respect our servicemen and this is just an outrage he isn't given even his retirement after protecting US from those who would harm us. This man is a felon and sex offender?? I think NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tess, wisconsin, 2013-05-13 00:24:10
I agree with him 100 percent. A year ago my 15 Yr old daughter was taken to a party given alcohol by a 20Yr old man he then slept with her while she was drunk. The DA in our county saw fit to procacute my daughter for reckless endangerment of safety, however the adult man was not charged in this day and age prejudice still runs rampant and will continue to do so until the government put their foot down on this bias against HIV/AIDS

Richard Leonido, Las Vegas, 2013-05-11 18:35:26
Dear sir I request you today to ask the President, 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 consider executive clemency, sentence reconsideration. thanks

Scared, Atlanta, 2013-05-10 06:33:13
Proves all my fears have meaning. We hide because of the fear. Fear of how the world will look at us. How will this ever change? Please help us.

Concerned Veteran, , 2013-05-09 10:48:03
Good people are facing HIV discrimination, Pinkela is not one of those people. www.omsj.org/authors/criminal-hiv-laws-compounded-by-confusion-over-hiv-test His [alleged] victim [gave] graffic testimony.

comments 16 - 30 (of 38 total)     << < previous next > >>

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