updated 7/17/2007 8:09:50 PM ET 2007-07-18T00:09:50

Military and civilian authorities have charged an HIV-positive soldier with assault with a deadly weapon, accusing him of having unprotected sex with a partner he didn’t tell about the infection.

Military and civilian prosecutors haven’t decided who will prosecute the case against Pfc. Johnny Lamar Dalton, said Maj. Tom Earnhardt, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

Dalton, 25, was arrested last week and was being held Tuesday in the Cumberland County jail on a $50,000 bond, said sheriff’s department spokeswoman Debbi Tanna. She said inmates weren’t allowed to give interviews, and a jailer said the soldier hadn’t been appointed an attorney.

Along with the assault count, Dalton faces civilian charges of committing a crime against nature and misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury. Earnhardt said he faces the same charges in the military’s criminal justice system.

An arrest warrant filed by county officials accuses Dalton of not telling his male partner, an 18-year-old civilian, that he has HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The teen’s mother alerted authorities to the relationship after her son fell ill and told her about it; he has tested positive for HIV. Tanna said she did not know whether Dalton was the source of the teen’s infection.

'Tragedy of this disease'
Dalton is assigned to the 22nd Aviation Support Battalion, which is part of the 82nd Airborne, Earnhardt said. He was ordered by his commander in November not to have unprotected sex after it was discovered he was HIV-positive. State law also prohibits a person infected with HIV from having sex unless condoms are used and requires that sexual partners be notified.

“All the command knew was that he had been diagnosed with HIV,” said Earnhardt, who added that HIV infection is one of several medical conditions, including pregnancy, heart disease and cancer, that would prevent a soldier from deploying. “What a service member does when they’re off duty, we have to depend on their honor and integrity.”

Earnhardt said Army prosecutors aren’t focusing on the soldier’s sexual orientation. The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy allows gays and lesbians to serve if they keep their sexual orientation private and do not engage in homosexual acts. The law prohibits commanders from asking about a person’s sex life and requires discharge of those who openly acknowledge they are gay.

“Our real focus is here we are with two families who are having to cope with the tragedy of this disease,” Earnhardt said.

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