A man in western Indiana accused of intentionally spreading HIV for more than a decade was ordered released Thursday, and a judge also delayed his trial until February because some documents and witnesses were not shared with the defense sooner.
Isiah Benford, 32, of Terre Haute, faces 27 criminal counts, including aggravated battery and failure to warn his partners of his HIV-positive status. His trial had been scheduled to begin Monday, but he walked out of jail Thursday.
After hearing arguments from defense attorney Mark Mullican and Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Roberts, Vigo Superior Judge Michael Lewis expressed concerns about fairness for Benford, the complexity of the case and concerns about selecting a jury due to media coverage.
"Defense needs discovery material such as medical reports. To just now have stuff done is not right. This is the most complex case we have had in this court. Everyone's time has been wasted in this case. I have had sleepless nights. I'm not very happy with the state," Lewis said.
Benford, who was arrested in June 2015, tested posted for HIV in 2003, according to a health record at the Monroe County Health Department in Bloomington.
Indiana State Police said at the time they had interviewed 11 females who reported they had sex with Benford. He either never discussed his HIV status with those sex partners or "taunted them with it and then claimed it was a 'joke,'" court records said. Court documents show three of the women have been diagnosed with HIV.
Smith ordered Benford released on his own recognizance. He also was being held on a robbery charge dating to 2014, but posted bond in that case and was released from custody.
Benford said he will comply with the judge's admonition to warn partners about his HIV status.
"If there is a duty to warn or whatever, I'm just going to follow the rules, you know what I mean?" Benford said. "I don't want to be seen as a bad person in the eye of the public."
Roberts says motions filed and records requested by the defense "resulted in a large amount of evidence being turned over to the defendant just within the last couple of weeks."
"We understood what the ramifications would be," Roberts said.