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Dallas Ebola Victim: No Evidence of Intent to Deceive; DA Assault Charges Were Wacky

Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan died early this morning at Texas Presbyterian Hospital here in Dallas, where he had been quarantined and isolated from all human contact for the past 14 days.  It’s sad to think that Thomas Duncan died alone.

Our sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones who are grieving their loss today and who were denied the ability to be near him as he passed.

Some may not agree with that sentiment – they have no sympathy for Mr. Duncan right now.

 

 

Many are angry with this man, and there’s lots of chatter about how he must have lied to enter the United States for treatment. Many assume without investigation that Thomas Duncan was a sneak and a manipulator who weaseled his way into Dallas for medical treatment because he knew he had Ebola and he knew he would die of Ebola if he stayed in Liberia.

This attitude apparently includes our District Attorney, since Craig Watkins announced last week that he planned on charging Thomas Eric Duncan with aggravated assault.

Reasons Why It Was Wrong to Consider Assault Charge Against Dallas Ebola Victim

Prosecute the Ebola victim on a felony assault charge?  That idea was insane. Here’s why:

Thomas Eric Duncan Did Not Lie About Ebola

1. Duncan’s Death Bed Testimony.

Witnesses are reporting that Thomas Duncan did NOT know that he was suffering from Ebola until he was diagnosed. These include those who heard Mr. Duncan tell his fiance after he was hospitalized and knew he had the virus that he would never have risked her being hurt by exposing her to the chance she might contract Ebola from him. Mr. Duncan is said to have told her that he would rather have stayed in Liberia and died there than risk endangering the “love of his life.”

2. Liberian Taxi Cab Driver’s Testimony.

Before dissing that, consider that Mr. Duncan allegedly contracted Ebola in his efforts to help a 19 year old pregnant neighbor who was seriously ill get into a taxi cab and to a hospital for emergency care. Sure, she was obviously ill — but the taxi cab driver reports are that he and Thomas Duncan was told at the time that she was miscarrying and needed immediate treatment.

Ask a doctor — pregnant women can demonstrate the type of symptoms this woman apparently did from many things other than Ebola; things like toxemia, for instance, can cause seizures and even death for a pregnant woman. It’s reasonable to think it true that the Good Samaritan didn’t know she had Ebola.

It even more reasonable to think than neither Mr. Duncan nor the taxi driver would be told she suffered from Ebola because her family members might justifiably believe that revealing that truth would mean no one would help her get to the doctor.

3. Duncan’s Actions in Dallas.

It also makes no sense that Thomas Eric Duncan knew he had been infected before he got on the plane because if he did, he would have gone straight to hospital upon arrival in Dallas. He didn’t.

He got to Dallas on September 20.  He felt fine, apparently.  He first sought medical help on September 24 when he began to have flu-like symptoms.

Moreover, if he knew he had been exposed to Ebola in Liberia and went to Presbyterian ER the first time, he wouldn’t have accepted getting discharged with a handful of antibiotics without mentioning that he might have Ebola and maybe they should check for it.

He was treated and went back home to his fiance’s apartment where he spent four days, only getting more sick, and then being taken back to the hospital for what ultimately became his final stay.

Punishment of Virus With Aggravated Assault Charges Is Unwarranted

So, what about Dallas DA Craig Watkin’s big idea to arrest Thomas Eric Duncan on aggravated assault because he came to Dallas suffering from Ebola?  Well, Mr. Duncan’s death stops that prosecutorial plan immediately.

And if it was a political plan to garner national news coverage since Mr. Watkins is in a big political re-election fight against Susan Hawk, that’s not going forward either.

Sure, there are laws on the books that prosecutors use to prosecute people who are suffering from viruses and who spread the disease to another. HIV/AIDs victims who spread the virus can find themselves charged with aggravated assault. People who carry STD viruses can also be charged with aggravated assault for infecting a sex partner.

The Dallas County District Attorney has done this before – filed aggravated assault charges based upon a virus.

Consider the 2013 case of Anthony Duane Horne, who was charged with aggravated assault for spitting on two Dallas police officers with full knowledge that he was HIV-positive. Horne allegedly spit on the officers as he was being arrested for public intoxication, and was then charged with aggravated assault on the officers under Texas Penal Code Section 22.02.

Threatening To Prosecute Ebola Assault Charges Can Hinder People Seeking Treatment

Finally, consider what happens when the prosecutor says he will charge someone with felony aggravated assault based upon an Ebola diagnosis.  He’s telling folk that he will order officers to go and arrest the Ebola victim and that they will be prosecuted for a crime that results in significant jail time upon conviction.

What message does this send to folk here Dallas, or Texas, or the rest of the United States?  

It’s reasonable to think that charging someone with Ebola with a criminal charge may well be have a deterrent effect — even threatening to prosecute may have already have caused negative consequences.

If someone here in Dallas County gets sick, will they avoid medical treatment and the chance of getting an Ebola diagnosis for fear they will end up in prison if they ever recover?  Would you be worried?

No Evidence of Intent: Key to an Ebola Assault Charge

While I agree we should do a better job detecting medical tourism to the United States, the grandstanding of Craig Watkins’ assertion that Mr. Duncan would be prosecuted for aggravated assault is misplaced.

There is simply no sense in punishing someone who had no clue he was infected and was just trying to get to Dallas to be with his family and move forward with his life. There’s no evidence of any INTENT on Mr. Duncan’s part to harm anyone, a key component of a virus assault case — and the sad truth is that this man died because he was trying to help a pregnant teenager get medical treatment to save her and her baby.

May he rest in peace.

 


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