Targeted for being HIV-positive? Protesters gather outside Cass Co. man’s hearing

Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-04 18:17:39-04

CASSOPOLIS, Mich. — What began as minor traffic violation may turn into prison time for Corey Rangel. He says he was pulled over in March for driving with a loud muffler. However days later he was kicked out of a drug treatment program, and Monday was his probation hearing.

Rangel believes the hearing had nothing to do with his driving and everything to do with his HIV status.

“All I can say is when that was in question, when my status was in question, that’s when everything changed,” said Rangel, surrounded by supporters who were protesting his hearing. “That’s when everything did a 180. And that's how all this unfolded.”

Rangel said when he was pulled over in March, he was cited with two civil infractions: one for not wearing his corrective lenses, and the other for not having proof of insurance. After the incident, he told his probation officer about what happened. The officer informed him that because he had been doing so well in the treatment program — returning to school full-time and landing a steady job — it would be overlooked.

Everything changed before the day was over.

“A few hours later, adult treatment, which is like another layer of supervision in my probation, got a hold of my probation officer and informed him that they in fact believe I should be violated for this,” said Rangel.

Rangel said he was also told that the treatment program was going to turn over his phone to a police officer and that he would be brought in to custody. The next day, an officer read him his rights and asked about a few personal pictures in his phone. The officer then proceeded to call a few contacts in his phone and asked if they knew about Rangel’s HIV status. The officer submitted a report regarding his findings that his contacts were aware of Rangel's status. However, in court he was told by the treatment program that he was being deceitful for not disclosing his HIV status in violation of a 1989 Michigan law.

"I willingly gave up my phone. I don’t have anything to hide," said Rangel. "I think where it got tricky is where they started disclosing my status to people. And so that’s when everything changed."

Rangel is facing four years in prison for violating probation and for previous drug charges. His attorney Blair Johnson requested an adjournment.

"Any probation violation, any terms of rules or probation that Mr. Rangel may be accused of, simply were never put in this affidavit," said Johnson. "That is his sole reason for being here is because he was expelled from the adult treatment court. And again, records for which I never received, he never received, didn’t have the benefit of when he was in front of Judge Renfro on [March] 18."

Judge Renfro handles the adult treatment program which Rangel was a part of. Judge Michael Dodge granted their request. Court will be delayed two to three weeks.

Despite what's going on, Rangel said he's optimistic about his future.

"I just hope they recognize how hard I’ve been working in the past year and I just wanted to be treated with respect and equally," said Rangel.