7 February 2002

Judge Reduces Bail in Controversial AIDS Activists' Case Million Dollar Bail Slashed, Activists Vow to Prove Innocence at Trial

San Francisco - In the preliminary hearing against AIDS activists Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli presiding Judge Perker Meeks Jr. reduced the outrageous bail from the sum of $500,000 per defendant to only $100,000 each. Meeks allowed the prosecution to proceed with a jury trial on all 27 counts filed. Additionally, he denied a defense motion to dismiss based on the continuous interruptions that have plagued the case from its inception. Defendant David Pasquarelli is also being held on an additional $100,000 bail stemming from separate charges alleged from the same incident.

Well-known AIDS activists David Pasquarelli, of the controversial AIDS dissident group ACTUP San Francisco, and Michael Petrelis, of the AIDS Accountability Project, have spent 71 days in jail since their courtroom arrest on November 28th. The pair are charged with numerous felonies and misdemeanors resulting from phone calls allegedly made to employees of the Health Department and San Francisco Chronicle. The controversy arose from comments by Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, Director of San Francisco's STD Control Unit, calling for the quarantine of gay men diagnosed with AIDS, as well as his reporting of unsubstantiated figures alleging that syphilis was "spiking" among gay men. Around the same time, the activists became aware of the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act, which would allow for the quarantining of HIV-positive people, the testing of HIV-negative people and forced medication. This new law, drafted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is currently being introduced into state legislatures nationwide.

A hushed courtroom listened with rapt attention as Mark Vermeulen, counsel for Pasquarelli, eloquently and successfully pleaded for the reduction in bail, stating his client was neither a flight risk, nor a threat to the community. Additionally Vermeulen accused the District Attorney's office of intentionally deceiving him about the existence of an arrest warrant for Pasquarelli. Knowing the bail was going to be substantially decreased, prosecutor Machaela Hoctor desperately tried to convince the judge to retain the bail at the minimum prescribed by the court system. Surprisingly, a flustered Hoctor, who two months ago was defending $500,000 as a fair bail, was reduced to pleading for $171,000 for Pasquarelli and $135,500 for Petrelis. Both of her requests were denied. The judge referred to the case as "not typical" and repeatedly referred to "political protest" as opposed to harassment.

"Though we are pleased with the massive reduction in bail, we feel David and Michael should have been released on their own recognizance," stated ACT UP member Ronnie Burk. "Far from being flight risks, they are looking forward to proving their innocence at trial. Going after political activists is not the best way to spend taxpayer's dollars. Clearly this is politically motivated."

The case involving both defendants has been carried over until February 25th where it will continue in Dept. 22 at 850 Bryant Street. The preliminary hearing for the UCSF charges against David Pasquarelli will resume this Friday in Dept. 622, 400 McAllister at 9 AM.

Michael Bellefountaine -- (415) 864-6686
Todd Swindell -- (415) 637-4666

Please help support the effort to release Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli:

Contributions to The Direct Action Civil Liberties Fund can be made online with a credit or debit card at, or checks can be mailed to the address below:

The Direct Action Civil Liberties Fund
Attn: Free Petrelis and Pasquarelli
PMB 101
100 First Street, Suite 100
San Francisco, CA 94105


ACT UP San Francisco - 1884 Market Street * San Francisco, CA 94102 - Phone: (415) 864-6686 * Fax: (415) 864-6687 *