For Exposing Partners to HIV, Man Gets 21 Years

Yolanda Woodlee, Washington Post, Nov. 4

A former D.C. government worker who has known since 1996 that he has the AIDS virus was sentenced to a 21-year prison term yesterday for luring women and teenage girls into sexual relationships without telling them of the risks.

Sundiata Basir, 34, a onetime assistant to a deputy mayor, had unprotected sex with at least seven partners in what prosecutors called “a stunning picture of criminal recklessness.” Four women and girls, including a 15-year-old, later discovered that they had the AIDS virus, prosecutors said. Basir offered no apologies yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, declaring at one point: “I’m not going to say anything. Every time I say something, I get another case.”

The judge called Basir a “violent, self-absorbed outlaw,” and prosecutors expressed concern about the broader impact of his behavior. Basir had sex with an unknown number of others who might be spreading the virus, they said. Authorities urged people who think they might have been exposed to seek medical screening.

Because of the number and ages of victims and the threat to public health, prosecutors said Basir’s case is particularly outrageous. They noted that the District already faces an HIV crisis: One in 20 residents is infected with the AIDS virus, the highest rate of any major U.S. city.

Basir pleaded guilty in July to child sexual abuse, cruelty to children and attempted aggravated assault. Those charges stemmed from relationships with a woman and two teenage girls.

Prosecutors said Basir never warned his partners, even though some asked him to use a condom. He also ignored the advice of his sister, a doctor, who said he could transmit the virus if he failed to take precautions, they said.

Basir has fathered seven children with six women and girls, prosecutors said. None of the children have been diagnosed with HIV. Even after marrying one of his victims—who was 17 when they wed in 2002—Basir mentioned nothing about his medical condition, they said.

From 1999 to 2002, Basir worked as an executive assistant for Carolyn N. Graham, who was the deputy mayor in charge of social services. He was paid $43,100 a year.

Graham, now on the D.C. school board, said she was unaware of Basir’s legal or medical problems. She said he was one of the first staff members she hired in late 1999 and that he served as her secretary and receptionist before being promoted to staff assistant. He organized community meetings, drafted letters and worked with a blue-ribbon panel on juvenile justice reform.

Graham said she could not believe that her “trusted” aide, whom she described as “brilliant,” would harm anyone, particular young girls. “There was nothing that I asked him to do that he wouldn’t do,” she said. “Everybody loved him. This other life we knew nothing about.”

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