Could Charlie Sheen Face Legal Action After Revealing He Is HIV Positive?
By Antoinette Bueno
Charlie Sheen's admission on Tuesday that he is HIV positive could potentially open the door for multiple lawsuits against him.
Although Sheen said on the Today show that he has told every one of his sexual partners about his diagnosis -- without exception -- since he learned of his status roughly four years ago, according to TMZ, at least six women have already lawyered up and plan to sue him for intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and sexual battery. The women claim they had both protected and unprotected sex with Sheen -- as recently as last month -- and he did not disclose his HIV status, the outlet reports.
However, legal experts tell ET that unless one of Sheen's partners tests positive -- none so far have said that they did -- and can prove that he intentionally infected them, under California law he would not be charged with any crime. Even civil lawsuits, the experts said, were unlikely to gain any traction unless an HIV-positive partner could prove Sheen was at fault, which would be very tough to establish.
"It's a hard case to make," says Scott Schoettes, Lambda Legal's HIV project director, speaking generally of cases brought against HIV-positive people. "If the person is on effective treatment at the time, then really the chance of transmission is essentially zero."
According to Schoettes and other AIDS advocates who still routinely work with HIV-positive clients facing basic discrimination at work or in housing, it's far more likely that someone would be targeted for a suit simply because they have HIV. "The stigma is still pretty bad," Schoettes said. "There's just an assumption unfortunately that someone who has HIV -- like myself -- has done something wrong. I think it's really hard for a person living with HIV to get a fair shake in the legal system."
Sheen himself addressed the potential for a barrage of lawsuits on the Today show.
"I mean, I would be predicting the future and assuming the worst -- I can only imagine based on what I've already experienced, what's already come down the pipe, and I've been forced to deal with -- I'm sure that's next," he said.
"I completely understand and respect that, but having divulged it is the reason I'm in the mess I am in, with having all of the shakedowns," he added about facing any potential criminal charges. "So, I mean, again, I can't sit here and protect against all of that or even worry about that. I can only sit here with you and tell my truth."
Sheen claimed on Tuesday that he has never once missed his medication, and his doctor, Robert Huizenga, said that due to the actor taking four antiretroviral drugs daily, Sheen has an undetectable level of the virus in his blood. The doctor also said that the chances of transmitting the virus are "incredibly low" for those who, like the former Two and a Half Men star, have undetectable virus and are also using protection.
"Individuals who are optimally treated who have undetectable virus, who responsibly use protection, have an incredibly low -- it’s incredibly rare to transmit the virus," Huizenga said on the Today show. "Can't say it is zero but it is a very low number."
For his part, Sheen said it was "impossible" that he transmitted the HIV virus to anyone else, though he did admit to having unprotected sex with two partners since being diagnosed. He said both were under the care of his doctor, and were "completely warned ahead of time."
Sheen also told Today co-host Matt Lauer that he told every one of his sexual partners -- before they had a sexual encounter -- that he was HIV positive.
However, Sheen's ex-girlfriend, Bree Olson, claimed on Howard Stern's Sirius XM radio show on Tuesday that she was never told of his diagnosis, and that the first she heard of it was when reports started surfacing in recent days. The timeline of the pair's relationship in regard to when Sheen found out he was HIV positive is murky, however. Olson dated and lived with Sheen in 2011, and reportedly left him in April of that year, and Sheen said he found out about his diagnosis about four years ago.
The 29-year-old adult film star claimed that she repeatedly had intercourse with the actor, who allegedly told her he was "clean" during the extent of their relationship. "He never said anything to me," Olson told Stern. "We had sex almost every day for a year."
Olson said she is not HIV positive.
Watch the video below for more on Sheen's HIV revelation.