AIDS Activists Freed After Judge Reduces Bail
San Francisco AIDS activists Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli were released from jail last week on a reduced bond and are now free until their trial on numerous harassment charges begins, the Los Angeles Times reports. Pasquarelli and Petrelis were arrested on Nov. 28 on charges of harassment, stalking and making criminal threats against public health officials, AIDS researchers and newspaper reporters (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 2/13). Judge Parker Meeks released the men on a combined $220,000 bond, reduced from $1.1 million, and has forbidden them to go within 150 yards of the University of California-San Francisco AIDS Health Project. Pasquarelli also agreed not to attend any public meetings (Pampalone, San Francisco Examiner, 2/12). Pasquarelli is a member of ACT UP/San Francisco, which is not affiliated with the national ACT UP organization and argues that "HIV is harmless, that AIDS is a myth and that unprotected sex is everyone's birthright." Petrelis, who is not a member of ACT UP/San Francisco, does not agree with all of the organization's views, but he shares its belief that federal AIDS funds are being "misspent on frightening, sexually graphic prevention efforts" (California Healthline, 11/29/01). Pasquarelli said of his release, "It's good to finally be free. I look forward to presenting my case to a San Francisco jury, where I am confident I will be found innocent of these outrageous charges" (Los Angeles Times, 2/13). The charges against the two men include 11 felonies, each punishable by up to three years in prison (San Francisco Chronicle, 2/13). Mark Vermeulen, Pasquarelli's lawyer, said that the trial will be held in the late spring or early summer (Los Angeles Times, 2/13).