Nick’s Story – Part Two
The slog of daily life after sentencing. A personal story in two parts about what it feels like to be on parole and a registered sex offender, a casualty of criminalization of HIV.
For Part 1, go here.
From The Body.com: "Nick Rhoades was convicted of "Criminal Transmission of HIV" in Iowa in 2008, even though his viral load was undetectable, he wore a condom and his accuser did not contract HIV. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registration. After a year of total incarceration, the judge reconsidered Nick's sentence and released him on five years probation, as well as the sex offender registration requirement."
For Nick’s full story go to www.seroproject.com
Nick Rhoades: June arrived, clearly nervous. I was worried she wouldn't come in at all. Jim observed as we met for the first time. I never said a word about my conviction. I taught her the new procedures I implemented for the front office staff that would basically make her job description change from "Night Auditor" to "Night Television-Watcher." June smiled and seemed so pleased with the stress I alleviated from her job that the rest didn't seem to matter, but whoever knows what another is really thinking? Jim began speaking of his stint at the halfway house, and the three of us made idle chitchat. I said good night to June, shook her hand again... and as I pushed the door open to leave for McDonald's, I told Jim in a loud voice (referring to his past in the halfway house), "Everyone deserves a second chance." The door closed behind me.
Since that night, no one at the hotel has mentioned "my past." My past is actually my present and my future, but whatever.
I registered as a sex offender in Marshall County, Iowa, today, Diary. The jailer was pleasant enough. I found out that the "K" on her name badge stood for "Kathy" ... like my mom's name. Jailer Kathy commented on it when I had to give her the names of my parents. She's not the sharpest knife in the drawer (she spelled my name wrong four times and kept having to redo her work). What took 25 minutes in Bremer County took an hour and 45 in Marshall. I was late to a dinner date. It was very odd, Diary, because she didn't ask for my email addresses, Skype handle, Yahoo messenger user name or any of that other personal information that Bremer County regularly requested. I'm sure they didn't have it on file because the deputy grumbled the entire time about having to start a file from scratch as she fumbled through the registration process. New photos (probably my sixth set since I was arrested; I'd like to see the album of my evolution through the Iowa Department of Corrections). No DNA sample this time (that has been taken three times separately). More signatures. More offenders with their faces pressed up against the glass of their cell door windows listening and staring at me as I went through the intake process once again for my conviction of "Criminal Transmission of HIV."
Did I transmit HIV? I don't recall that ever happening. Why would they call it that? At least the deputy who patted me down when I entered the jail was cute. I wanted to ask him for a cavity search, Diary, but I didn't think that wise considering the circumstances that brought me to the jail. Oh, Diary! I hope he gets my phone number from my file and calls. Do you think he will??
By the end of the hour and forty-five minute process, Jailer Kathy and I had just finger-printing to do. Of course their computerized system was out of order, so we had to do it the old-fashioned way. Jailer Kathy was very nervous and had to get instructions. She didn't put on latex gloves, though. I found that to be comforting somehow. Was she too naive to be ignorant? Or did she just know how HIV is actually transmitted? Maybe she just had to be home before Wheel of Fortune.
The finger-printing station was mounted at about waste-level for me. I'm 6'2". Jailer Kathy looked to be about 5'6". Typical procedure would be for her to grab each of my fingers, roll them in the ink and then roll them on the cards in their assigned spots. We had to do each finger, left and right. Both palms. Then, both sets of fingers pressed down together at once (excluding the thumbs)... and lastly, of course, my favorite... the "Karate Chops!" The Karate Chops have always been my favorite. You'd never be able to identify what those images were if you weren't a jailer or someone who had been arrested. HIYA!!! Miss Piggy flowed through my wandering mind...
I knew Jailer Kathy would take forever on the finger-printing. I felt emboldened at this point, so I took a shot and told her I had some experience at doing this. I think this was my sixth set of prints I have given the government. They have given me so much; it's the least I can do for them in return. I asked Jailer Kathy if she would mind me trying it on my own.
"If you think you can," she said. Jailer Kathy and I had built a sliver of positive rapport over the time we had spent together. We discussed (I discussed) politics and such. Why a civil servant would vote for Romney or any Republican is beyond me, Diary.
I did all of my prints in less than a minute. As I grabbed a towelette to wipe the ink off, she smiled and said, "Wow! That was great! I always smudge them all. Thanks for making my day shorter." I couldn't help but think it was a win-win. Jailer Kathy and I said good bye. This time I was allowed to walk through the corridors of the Marshall County Jail without escort. I worked my way out of the labyrinth through the four steel doors. I was anxious to leave. I was surprised I didn't get lost. I paused at each door, waiting for the guard in some control room somewhere to see me on camera. I could feel him or her peering at me anonymously. Then, I heard the doors "pop" one-by-one as I cascaded out of the jail. Finally, "freedom" again.
Once I felt the luxurious 95-degree heat on my face, I called my dinner date to tell him I was sorry for being late but was on my way. I met Allen downtown for Chinese food, frozen yogurt and then the DNC on TV. First Lady Michelle Obama looked lovely. I spaced off several times thinking how she could kick Nancy Reagan's ass into next week. Wouldn't that be a sight, Diary? Allen used to live in Chicago and told me of bars called the "Dick Dock" and the "White Swallow." He is also a patient of my nurse practitioner, Kris Davis, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City -- the BEST CARE ANYWHERE. I asked Kris if she knew anyone in Marshalltown I could have dinners with to get out of my hotel room and away from McDonald's (and to keep idle hands from doing the devil's work). Do you know I can spend close to $10 on fast food at one sitting, Diary? Forget gas prices. Obama needs to fix fast food prices. [Note to self: Don't forget to write the President about the high cost of Big Mac attacks.] Where was I? Oh yes. Kris Davis is my angel. She has been since '98 when I was diagnosed. I'm sad she's retiring next year. No one can take her place.
It was the end of a long day but an enjoyable evening. I was on my way out the door of Allen's apartment when I casually mentioned that I had a little legal situation that I would discuss with him sometime.
Allen softly said, "I know. I Googled you."
[F I N] Or is it? Dum dum duuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmm.......!
P.S. For those who I haven't told the outcome, I convinced my attorneys that CNN is not an appetizing thought right now. After much deliberation, they saw it my way. I really just wanted to be on TV with Sanjay Gupta but not have to talk about HIV or criminalization. lol ... Still no response from the Iowa Supreme Court.
Whose life is this again? Certainly not mine.
Nick’s case is still ongoing with Lambda Legal at the Iowa Supreme Court level – and he asks that any readers not write letters or make phone calls on his behalf as it would likely make things worse -- despite the best intentions.