ROME • An Italian court has sentenced an HIV-positive man to 24 years in jail for intentionally infecting 30 women he had unprotected sex with over nearly 10 years.
Under the pseudonym Hearty Style, 33-year-old accountant Valentino Talluto seduced dozens of young women on social networks and Internet dating sites, often dating several at a time.
Rome prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Talluto. However, after some 12 hours of deliberation, the court last Friday decided he should receive a 24-year sentence after finding he did not cause an epidemic by spreading a pathogen, which under Italian law would have brought a life term.
Some of his victims embraced one another and burst into tears when the verdict was announced, reporters who were present said.
Out of 53 sexual "conquests" known to have taken place between 2006 - when he discovered he was HIV-positive - and his arrest in 2015, 30 women were infected by him with the virus, which damages the immune system and causes Aids. The male companions of three of the women were also infected, as was the baby of a fourth, investigators say.
Throughout the trial, which opened in March in Rome's Rebibbia prison, the women described how Talluto had wined and dined them, claiming to have fallen in love, before persuading them to have unprotected sex.
The women who had asked him to wear a condom said he had told them he was allergic or had just been tested for HIV. When the women discovered they were HIV-positive - by chance, due to health problems or after other women he dated raised the alarm - they said he told them that it had nothing to do with him.
The defence maintains Talluto's actions were "imprudent, but not intentional".
Many of Talluto's victims were students, some mothers. The youngest was 14 at the beginning of their relationship, the oldest around 40.
Each described the horrors of HIV, from the stigma which distanced even family members, to the trials of treatment.
Some women stayed with him for months after discovering they were sick. In the end, it was his chronic cheating - he juggled up to six relationships at the same time - that drove them away.
The defence painted a picture of a young man eager for affection who never knew his father and whose mother - a drug addict who was HIV-positive - died when he was just four years old.
"He did not intentionally seek to transmit the virus," his lawyer Maurizio Barca said, insisting that Talluto used condoms "most of the time", and only had sex without them a few times after being "caught in the heat of the action".