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Sex contact brings endangerment charge; HIV-positive man allegedly didn't tell partner he was infected

A 20-year-old Buffalo man who is HIV positive may have had sex with more than one unsuspecting partner, city police said Wednesday as they announced his arrest.

Darryl Fortner, of Sherman Street, was charged with first-degree reckless endangerment for allegedly having sexual intercourse with a woman and failing to tell her he was infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

"He knew that he was infected prior to having sexual intercourse with the victim," said Detective Jeff Rinaldo of the Sex Offense Squad.

Police have issued a request for other sexual partners of Fortner to contact them and seek medical treatment.

While the investigation is in its early stages, it is reminiscent of the high-profile case of former Jamestown and New York City resident Nushawn Williams, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to infecting 13 young women with HIV.

Sex Offense Squad detectives Wednesday would not confirm whether the female was infected by Fortner, but sources familiar with the investigation said she tested positive after seeking medical attention.

When questioned by medical staff about her sexual partners, the woman mentioned Fortner's name, sources said.

Another female, meanwhile, also mentioned Fortner as a sexual partner, while she was seeking medical attention, sources said. The second female is awaiting results of her HIV test.

But that's when medical staff contacted the police department's Sex Offense Squad.

The investigation began about three weeks ago, Rinaldo said Wednesday during a late-afternoon news conference in City Hall.

"It's one thing if it's two consenting partners that are aware of each other's risks," Rinaldo said. "It's another thing if you don't disclose that. You're basically gambling with the other person's health."

When asked if Fortner had a prior criminal record, Rinaldo responded: "Not that I'm aware of."

Fortner was arrested late Tuesday night and arraigned Wednesday morning in City Court. He is being held in Erie County Holding Center in lieu of $15,000 bail.

A felony hearing is scheduled for April 26, said Michael J. DeGeorge, police spokesman.

DeGeorge said detectives are hoping that other people who may have had sexual encounters with Fortner will call the squad at 851-4073 or 851-4074.

"Potential victims," DeGeorge said, "are urged to seek medical advice."

The case sends an important public message, Rinaldo said.

"Know who your partner is and know what you're dealing with," the detective said.

Williams, meanwhile, remains incarcerated, though he completed his 12-year prison term. The state attorney general wants Williams, now 33, indefinitely detained under the 2007 civil confinement law.

A civil trial to determine his fate is scheduled to be conducted May 9 in Buffalo.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com and jrey@buffnews.com