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CANYON COUNTY — Rolando Rivera, 52, will spend five to 15 years in prison for violating the terms of his 2008 probation.

Rivera made an Alford plea — acknowledging a jury would likely find him guilty — earlier this year to transmitting HIV. The Alford plea is legally the same as a guilty plea, but allows the defendant to maintain his innocence.

Rivera and his lawyer, Richard Harris, argue that Rivera never had the virus in the first place. The original test may have been a false positive, Harris told the court, and subsequent tests have shown no evidence of the disease.

Furthermore, Harris argued, none of Rivera’s sexual partners — including his ex-wife — have ever tested positive for HIV.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Erica Kallin argued that Rivera had a positive diagnosis from a qualified medical professional. Even if that diagnosis later turns out to be incorrect, Idaho State Code requires him to disclose that information to potential sexual partners.

“What we have is a situation where the defendant, who at the time very much believed that he was HIV positive,” Kallin told the court. “And who admitted to law enforcement that he was HIV positive, and didn’t tell these two women that he had sex with.”

Third District Judge Juneal Kerrick sentenced him to probation for the HIV transmission charge. But Rivera was already on probation for a felony indecent exposure conviction in 2008, the terms of which Kerrick said he violated whether he’s HIV positive or not.

“You violated a very basic tenet of sex offender probation, and that is, you do not engage in any sexual relationship without the permission of your probation officer,” Kerrick told Rivera. “All of this would have been avoided if you’d followed that instruction.”

One of Rivera’s victims, despite testing negative for the virus, testified Tuesday that she still feels betrayed and traumatized by the incident. By failing to tell her about his diagnosis, Rivera “played Russian Roulette with (her) life.”

“In a way, he did kill me. He took away who I was. I was a happy, healthy, productive person,” she told the court. “He took away my happiness.”

When asked if he’d like to make a statement, Rivera said he understands his victims’ fear — he’s felt it himself. That’s why he didn’t disclose his diagnosis, he told the court: He was afraid of it.

“I didn’t intentionally do this. I fear for myself as well,” he told Kerrick. “I fear it so much that I wanted to hide it and protect my own children. I guess it finally caught up with me.”

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