Reputed street hustler Joseph E. Markowski was ordered Thursday to stand trial for attempted murder after a judge said the evidence suggests that he "intended to pass on the AIDS virus" when he sold his contaminated blood.
"What we have here is a deliberate and conscious disregard of human safety," Los Angeles Municipal Judge Alban I. Niles said at the conclusion of a four-day preliminary hearing.
Markowski, 29, a former mental patient who was said by his lawyer to be under "pretty substantial" medication, showed no emotion throughout the proceedings. In addition to attempted murder, he will be tried for assault and attempting to poison a medical product.
But Niles dismissed five of the original 10 felony counts, including two accusing Markowski of attempted murder for having sex last March with a man who subsequently refused to testify against him.
The case is believed to be the first involving attempted murder charges stemming from a sale of blood.
In his ruling, Niles rejected defense arguments that the charges should be dismissed because Markowski did not intend harm when he sold blood to a Los Angeles plasma center on June 22 and attempted to do so again on June 25.
To show that Markowski realized he was infected with the deadly AIDS virus when he sold blood, the prosecution called doctors, police officers and a paramedic who testified that he told them that he had tested positive for the disease. Dr. Stephen G. Connolly, a resident physician at County-USC Medical Center, said Markowski made such a statement as early as February, 1986.
But Markowski's attorney, Guy O'Brien, argued that these statements were "not reliable" because they were made by a "severely disabled mental patient" who was "delusional" about his medical condition. The only test results introduced at the hearing, while positive, were based on the blood Markowski sold in June, the attorney noted.
In going to the plasma center, Markowski "was desperate, he was destitute. He had been turned away from various public facilities numerous times, and he went there . . . solely for the purpose of making money," O'Brien said.
He said Markowski's behavior could be characterized as "reckless," "callous" or "indifferent," but that "the one thing that has been missing is any evidence that he intended to hurt anybody."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Antonio Barreto Jr. countered that Markowski knew that he could inflict harm. The prosecutor cited testimony from paramedic Lawrence Roberts that Markowski told him "someone gave him AIDS, and he didn't care who he gave it to."
The charges involving Markowski's alleged sexual encounters were dismissed after the alleged victim refused for a second time this week to testify. Paris Shaerrell, 45, who is in jail awaiting trial on an unrelated robbery charge, had been held in contempt of court for his actions, and Niles told him Thursday he would be "incarcerated until the statute of limitations runs out in this matter."
The statute of limitations for attempted murder is six years, according to Shaerrell's lawyer.