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Boone should be removed from solitary confinement, lawyer argues

Ontario man convicted of attempted murder in HIV nondisclosure trial has been held in segregation since May

Steven Boone has been held in solitary confinement in an Ottawa prison since May 29, 2013. Credit: Xtra file photo

Steven Boone is trying to get out of segregation for Christmas.

In a high-profile and controversial HIV-nondisclosure trial, Boone was convicted in October 2012 of attempted murder of three men, three counts of aggravated sexual assault and administering a noxious substance (his semen).

Since May 29 of this year, Boone has been held in solitary confinement at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC). During a two-day hearing on Dec 11 and Dec 13, his lawyer, Paul Champ, argued that neither the jail nor the Crown have provided a lawful reason for his client’s long-term solitary confinement.

Boone testified on the stand that he was never told why he was placed in segregation. He said the deputy superintendent would tell him only, “You should know the reason.”

“That really does not meet what the law requires, the regulations in terms of procedure for placing someone in solitary confinement,” Champ said in an interview with Xtra. “What it came down to was the fact that he’d had a sexual relationship with another man and had admitted to it and that it was unprotected sex. Although they tried to pile on many different reasons, it came down to they were concerned that he’d have unprotected sex with other inmates.”

During Boone’s incarceration, he requested and received condoms and lubricant from the jail’s nursing staff, which OCDC’s health manager confirmed during her testimony.

“There is a formal rule prohibiting sex within the detention facility, but they do hand out condoms because at the end of the day they know that activity is going on,” Champ says.

According to Boone’s testimony and backed up by his jailhouse letters, he had a long-term relationship with another inmate that lasted about two years, Champ says. Boone had condoms, was open about his HIV status and was advocating for protected sex, his lawyer says.

“It was the other individual who insisted that he wanted to have unprotected sex,” Champ says. “They did have unprotected sex, but there’s no doubt whatsoever and OCDC accepts that it was willing — the other man was a willing participant and, in fact, he was the one who encouraged it.”

If OCDC wanted to censure Boone for having sex in jail, it should be dealt with as a matter of discipline, which would bring a maximum penalty of 30 days in solitary confinement, Champ says. Since Boone has now been in solitary for six and a half months, Champ argued at the hearing that his client’s segregation is unlawful.

Boone’s former partner has since been transferred to another facility. The long-term solitary confinement has been a psychologically damaging experience for his client, Champ says.

“He’s being seen regularly by psychiatrists and a psychologist. He is engaging in self-injurious behaviour,” Champ says. “He is having panic attacks and shakes, severe depression, and they are fully aware. Everyone acknowledged who took the stand for OCDC that he is suffering severe psychological effects from being placed in solitary confinement.”

The idea that Boone wants to get out of solitary because he wants a cellmate for sexual purposes isn’t true, Champ says.

“I think the Crown was really stretching, trying to portray it as some way nefarious that he was asking for cellmates, when in fact they knew he’d had 25 or 30 cellmates over the previous three years and there were no problems,” he says.

During Boone’s trial for attempted murder in 2012, the Crown referred to internet chats in which Boone wrote that he wanted to infect men with HIV. Ian Carter, Boone’s lawyer at the time, argued the internet chats were evidence of Boone’s “charged-up sexual talk” and fantasy life, not true statements of intent. 

On Dec 11, Boone’s writing was again introduced. This time a portion of his letter to his former jailhouse partner was read in court.

“You are forever tied to me,” Boone wrote. “No girl is going to want to be with a guy who gets [anal intercourse] by an HIV-positive guy. You would have to be crazy to believe any girl is going to want you.”

“That was very troubling when the lawyer for Correctional Services read that letter in court,” Champ says. “It was out of context.”

During their relationship, Boone and his former partner exchanged more than 40 letters, most of them romantic and discussing future plans, including marriage, Champ says. After the relationship ended, Boone wrote a final three-page letter — a few sentences of which were read in court — that characterized the way many people feel when a relationship has ended while emphasizing that living with stigma isn’t easy, Champ says.

There is no decision yet in the two-day hearing, but Champ hopes there will be a judgment before Christmas.

“At the end of the day, I do think it’s simply fear of an HIV-positive man having sex,” he says. “The Crown was over-reaching, and if they want to place someone like Steven Boone in segregation because there’s a risk that he might have sex, they would have to do the same for anyone else who’s HIV-positive.”