RED LODGE — A Joliet man accused of infecting his unsuspecting partner with HIV denied a felony endangerment charge Wednesday in Carbon County District Court.

Peter Clifton Northcutt, 52, pleaded not guilty to the criminal count during arraignment before Judge Blair Jones.

The charge alleges that Northcutt failed to disclose his medical condition to a man identified in court records as T.V., who later contracted HIV. Northcutt and T.V. had a three-year sexual relationship, according to court records.  

The criminal charge against Northcutt is uncommon in Montana, Carbon County Attorney Alex Nixon said, but similar cases have been filed in other states.

Nixon said he understands that some Montana prosecutors may have filed similar charges in sexual-assault cases in which the victim contracted a sexually transmitted disease. It is unclear, Nixon said, if there is a prior case in Montana involving transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. 

Northcutt is also awaiting trial on charges related to a shooting incident in July 2011 at his residence on Joliet-Fromberg Road.

In that case, Northcutt faces two counts of felony assault on a peace officer and aggravated animal cruelty. Prosecutors say Northcutt shot toward two officers sent to check on his welfare, then shot and killed 55 husky and husky-mix sled dogs kenneled on the property.

A trial in that case is set for April 8 before Madison County District Judge Loren Tucker, who took over the case from Jones after Northcutt's defense attorneys requested a different judge.

During the arraignment on the new charge Wednesday, Jones told Northcutt and his attorney, Paul Matt, that he has asked that Tucker preside over both pending criminal cases.

Northcutt agreed to proceed with his arraignment before Jones, who then set bond at $50,000, the amount Northcutt posted last month after he was arrested on a warrant.

Nixon, the prosecutor, raised several issues during the brief arraignment but said the legal matters would have to be decided by Tucker later. Among those issues were a request to seal any court documents that include the full name of the victim.

Nixon said the victim's name is well-known to Northcutt. Matt, the defense attorney, said he did not oppose keeping the records confidential.

On another matter, Nixon said the prosecution may question whether Penny Strong, Northcutt's attorney in the shooting case, can represent Northcutt in the new case. Strong may be a witness in the endangerment case, he said.

According to court records, Strong was interviewing T.V. in February as a witness in the shooting case. During the interview, she asked T.V. if he knew Northcutt had HIV.

T.V. told Strong he did not know of Northcutt's diagnosis.

"When did you first hear?" Strong asked the man.

"Right now in this office," he replied.

T.V. took a test for HIV the next day and learned a few days later that he had contracted the virus.

T.V. told investigators that he met Northcutt in the fall of 2005 and the men began seeing each other in February or March the next year. A year later, the men began living together, and the relationship ended in about October 2010.

Court records state Northcutt's medical records show he has tested positive for HIV since 1997 and for AIDS since 1998.



State courts reporter for the Billings Gazette.