Stephen Koch was under investigation for possession of child pornography when Arkansas police discovered something that may have been even more disturbing; the 25-year-old man had intentionally contracted HIV so that he could infect others.
The Arkansas man pleaded guilty this week to a slew of charges, including attempting to expose another person to HIV. As the New York Post reported, police initially arrested Koch on drug charges, but learned from an informant that he was in possession of child pornography. A search turned up evidence that Koch had intentionally infected himself with HIV and was trying to pass the virus along to unknowing partners.
As the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported, Koch admitted to a judge that his behavior was self-destructive and that he intended to hurt other people as well.
Stephen Koch is not the first person to be accused of intentionally infecting others with HIV. In a widely reported case from 1997, a man named NuShawn Williams was convicted of rape and reckless endangerment after police said he spread HIV to more than a dozen women. The western New York man continued to be held under the state’s mental hygiene law, but the former doctor to Williams said be believes the now 41-year-old can he released.
“I find it hard to believe that he has the mental health challenges that they say he has,” Dr. Neal Rzepkowski told WIBV. “He’s learned his lesson. He was a young kid then. This is twenty years later, twenty years later. He was a young, impulsive kid. He’s grown up over twenty years, he’s not about to go out and spread it.”
The report noted that all of the women who contracted HIV after contact with Williams have been responding well to medicine, and none of the cases have progressed to AIDS.
Stephen Koch’s conviction brought out a range of emotions as his story attracted nationwide headlines. Some felt that he should receive harsh punishment by intending to inflict innocent people with the deadly disease, but others believed that Koch was suffering a mental illness and should have been treated in a medical setting.
It was not clear from reports of how many people, if any, actually contracted HIV after contact with Stephen Koch.
In addition to the charges that he intentionally tried to expose others to HIV, Stephen Koch also pleaded guilty to eight counts of child pornography possession and possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.