Prostitution arrests seldom make headlines -- unless the person busted allegedly was taking part in this activity knowing that he or she has HIV/AIDS.
Joshua Harker is the latest person accused of this crime, and he's hardly the first. In recent years, at least two other people have been charged with the same offense in the metro area, including one cuffed for doing so over and over again.
The most notorious local examples of such incidents involve Darren Garcia.
As we reported in January 2012, Garcia was busted for prostitution with the knowledge of AIDS for the first time in Denver in 2007 and received an eighteen-month sentence. Nonetheless, she was arrested on the same charge in November 2009. According to information in this Westword post, she offered to perform sexual acts for $50, and at the time of her arrest, she was found to have crack cocaine in her possession, leading to a second felony charge, possession of a controlled substance. But she served only six months behind bars that time around.
Why a lesser sentence for a second conviction of a crime listed as a felony because it potentially endangers the lives of others? Denver District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough provided some background in a Westword interview.
"A regular prostitution arrest is usually done as a city ordinance violation," she said. "But prostitution with the knowledge of AIDS is a class-five felony, with a presumptive sentencing range of up to three years in prison."
In both instances, though, Garcia wasn't convicted of this act. Instead, she pleaded guilty to attempted prostitution with the knowledge of AIDS, a class-six felony that can net up to eighteen months in a Department of Corrections facility, or half as much as a class-five felony.
As such, Garcia received the maximum sentence for a class-six felony for the 2007 conviction, but only six months for the same crime two years later. For that reason, she was free in early 2012, when she was among fourteen people arrested in a prostitution sweep on Colfax.
Last August, William Head -- yes, that's his real name -- was cuffed on similar accusations. As we posted at the time, Head's arrest affidavit says Denver police received a complaint that July about a man conducting massages that were thought to have edged into prostitution -- and the investigating officer heard unconfirmed reports that Head "possibly had the HIV virus and had transmitted that virus to another male."
An undercover detective subsequently contacted Head, who identified himself as "Tor," and made an appointment. Upon his arrival, the cop confirmed the price for the massage -- $60 -- and asked about "extras." Head reportedly said he also performed erotic massages, including a prostate massage, plus hand jobs and blow jobs. Moreover, he noted that these services were covered by the $60 fee.
At that point, Head was arrested, and during a subsequent interview, he told officers he'd tested positive for HIV in October 2010 and was told at that time he had AIDS -- a diagnosis confirmed by a second test shortly thereafter. He's been treated for the ailment at a local VA hospital since then but has continued to do massages, as he's done since 2007.
What about the allegations against Harker?
On June 12, according to a probable cause statement on view below, a Denver police detective set up what's referred to as an "out call operation." The location is listed as room 610 at 1975 Mile High Stadium Circle, the address for Hotel VQ.
The report says Harker was contacted via Craigslist, and upon meeting with the undercover cop, he allegedly offered to perform oral sex on him for $100.
At that point, the detective gave a predetermined bust signal and Harker was taken into custody. But what otherwise might have been a routine arrest went into a different mode shortly thereafter.
Harker waived his rights, the report maintains, and in speaking to the detective, he's quoted as saying he's HIV positive and has known since last year.
As such, Harker now faces two charges: prostitution, a misdemeanor, and prostitution with knowledge of being infected with HIV/AIDS, a class five felony.
At 9:30 a.m. this morning, Harker is slated to appear in Denver County court for a second advisement, and he could be looking at serious jail time if he's convicted of both of these offenses -- or less if he pleads them down. Here's his booking photo, followed by the aforementioned probable cause statement.
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Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Colorado Crimes archive circa January 2012: "Darren Garcia: How has HIV-positive prostitute allegedly been able to offend again and again?"