Local News

Attorney wants closed court for client's health-law case

Posted August 15, 2008 5:18 p.m. EDT
Updated August 15, 2008 7:30 p.m. EDT

— The case of a Raleigh man charged with a public health violation was continued Friday after his attorney said she does not want the matter heard in open court.

Joshua Waldon Weaver, 23, was arrested in April on charges stemming from North Carolina General Statute 130A-144 (f), which requires all people to comply with measures controlling communicable diseases, and North Carolina Administrative Code 10-41 A.02020 (1)(a)(e), which addresses control measures regarding HIV.

According to an arrest warrant, the alleged offenses ranged from Aug. 1, 2006, to the present. Weaver is out of jail on a $50,000 bond.

Weaver's attorney, Evonne Hopkins, tried to have a judge close proceedings Friday morning when Weaver was in court for what was to have been a plea deal with prosecutors. She said it is a sensitive matter and that exposing medical information might violate medical privacy laws.

"The Americans With Disabilities Act, HIPAA – I'm concerned about State Bar consequences. I am highly alarmed," Hopkins said. She referred to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law that guards patients' privacy.

After several hours of delays and arguments, District Court Judge James Fullwood agreed to continue the case until next Friday.

"We recognize the sensitivity of this issue," Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger said. "We're not out to get anyone."

According to court documents, the Wake County Public Health Department reported Weaver to the district attorney's office.

Although she said she could not talk specifically about Weaver's case, director Gibby Harris said that, in general, the agency has a responsibility to monitor people with communicable diseases to make sure they don't spread them.

"Our intent is to change behavior," Harris said.

When a person is diagnosed with a communicable disease, such as HIV, health officials ask the person to supply a list of people they have had contact with so those people can be notified.

Harris said the patient is initially given an isolation/no-contact order not to spread the disease.

If they fail to comply, they are first warned, Harris said. Criminal charges are a last resort.

"If we see someone who just can't comply for one reason or another or just will not comply, then we do have the option of prosecuting that individual," Harris said.

Overall, there were 229 documented cases of HIV in Wake County last year, down 31 from 2006. Three-quarters of the patients were men.