Jury hung in child neglect case

The case of a woman accused of withholding HIV medication from her adopted son ended in a hung jury last week. The woman could have faced up to five years in prison for felony child neglect in the treatment of her 15-year-old son, who was born HIV-positive.

The boy was removed from the woman’s custody in late 2005, when he attended a meeting of the Charlottesville Aids/HIV Services Group and said he refused to go back home. The boy was sent to the home of an ASG employee, where he now lives. A criminal investigation began when the ASG employee went to the boy’s mother’s house to retrieve his medicine, and found prescriptions backdated many months.

From 2001 to 2005, doctors noted a decline in the boy’s condition and suspected his medicine wasn’t being administered properly. During that time, the boy’s T-cell count dipped low enough to develop into full-blown AIDS.

The teen testified that his mother withheld his HIV medication and opted for an herbal treatment called Barley Green, a supplement made from powdered barley leaves. Barley Green’s distributors advertise that it increases energy, fights cancer and boosts the immune system, among other claims. In 1988, the FDA ordered American Image Marketing (AIM), which sold Barley Green, to stop falsely marketing the supplement, but distribution has continued through other companies.

Defense attorneys for the boy’s mother argued that he was lying to escape a strict household.

Albemarle Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Moore says his office may retry the case. “At this point we’re just considering our options. Obviously we were disappointed that she wasn’t counted guilty, and disappointed that the jury wasn’t persuaded by the evidence.”

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