Charge reduced to assault in Alaska spitter case

An attempted murder charge has been reduced to assault against a 29-year-old Alaska man with an infectious disease who is accused of spitting on a hospital nurse.

An attempted murder charge has been reduced to assault against a 29-year-old Alaska man with an infectious disease who is accused of spitting on a hospital nurse.

Andre LaFrance, who has hepatitis C, also is charged with harassment in the incident Monday at Mat-Su Regional Medical Center north of Anchorage.

Hepatitis C can cause liver damage. It is mostly commonly spread when blood from a person who is infected enters the body of someone who is not, but it can also be sexually transmitted, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

An affidavit filed by state troopers states that the Wasilla man was treated at the hospital emergency room Sunday night for a drug overdose.

The document says LaFrance was readmitted the following morning for another drug overdose, but medics determined there was no overdose.

After medics moved to release LaFrance, he claimed he was suicidal, the affidavit said. Hospital workers tried to hold him for troopers, but LaFrance said he would spit on them if placed in restraints.

LaFrance then was restrained and followed through on his threat, spitting on a nurse, the document said.

"Andre knows he has Hepatitis C," trooper Ryan Mattingley wrote in the affidavit.

LaFrance, who was arrested Monday, remained in custody at the Mat-Su Pretrial Facility in Palmer.

The state Public Defender Agency said Wednesday it hasn't begun working on the case yet.

"There's been no discovery. We haven't talked to our guy yet," said Richard John, supervising attorney in the agency's Palmer office.

In reducing the attempted murder count to 3rd- and 4th-degree assault, prosecutors said in their filing that LaFrance "recklessly placed another person in fear of imminent serious physical injury by means of a dangerous instrument, to wit: saliva."

Hepatitis C, however, is a "blood-to-blood pathogen," said Sue Simon, president of the Hepatitis C Association, a Scotch Plains, N.J.-based organization whose mission is to educate the public about the disease.

"The infected blood has to enter directly into the blood stream of a non-infected person," Simon said.

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