Video: In the Interrogation Room With Nick Rhoades
In July 2008, the Cedar Falls Police Department questioned Nick Rhoades, accusing him of having sex without first disclosing that he was HIV-positive. Watch excerpts from his interrogation. | Related story »
Transcript of the Full Interrogation
Investigator Abernathy: Let's find a quiet place to sit and chat. Have a seat there. We'll be with you in just a second.
Nick Rhoades: Thank you.
[background noises only]
Investigator Abernathy: All right. How are things going today?
Rhoades: They were going fine.
Investigator Abernathy: Up until now. Let me explain a little bit. First of all, as I said, I'm an investigator at the Cedar Falls Police Department. My name's Investigator Abernathy.
I've got a case that involves you that I need to speak with you about. Before I do so, I need to inform you of your rights because you are in a custodial situation here, at the Sheriff's Department. These are just like you hear on TV. It says, "I, Nick Rhoades."
Rhoades: Am I under arrest at this point?
Investigator Abernathy: You are not under arrest. I'm going to advise you of these rights, and then I'll be able to tell you what's going on.
"I, Nick Rhoades, have been informed at 14:45 hours, on the 14th of July, 2008, by Investigator Abernathy, who I know to be a member of the Cedar Falls Police Division that I have the right to remain silent, that anything I say can and will be used against me in a court of law."
"That I have a right to talk to a lawyer, have a lawyer present with me while I'm being questioned, and that if I cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent me before any questioning, if I wish."
"I can decide at any time to exercise these rights and not answer any questions or make any statements. I understand each of these rights. They've been explained to me. Having these rights in mind, I wish to speak with a member of the Cedar Falls Police Division."
Do you understand those rights?
Rhoades: Yes, sir.
Investigator Abernathy: I need a signature there, if you're comfortable speaking with me, and we can get started. Do you have any idea why you're down here today?
Rhoades: Actually, no.
Investigator Abernathy: I have a case involving you and an Adam Plendl. Do you know who Mr. Plendl is?
Rhoades: I know someone named Adam. I'm sure his last...
Investigator Abernathy: How do you know this Adam? Tell me how you know him.
Rhoades: We hung out and drank one night, cleaned his house and just hung out.
Investigator Abernathy: How have you met him?
Rhoades: We just met online, just a chatroom.
Investigator Abernathy: About how long would you have known him?
Rhoades: A couple weeks.
Investigator Abernathy: Towards the end of June you're talking, sometime? You don't have to be date‑specific, just a rough...
Rhoades: Vaguely, yes, sir.
Investigator Abernathy: You met him at the end of June, in a chat room, sometime.
Rhoades: Yes, all very innocently.
Investigator Abernathy: Where did you hang out at?
Rhoades: At his place.
Investigator Abernathy: Where does he live?
Rhoades: Cedar Falls near the university.
Investigator Abernathy: Do you happen to know the street? Does he live in a dorm, or house?
Rhoades: It's a downstairs apartment in a house.
Investigator Abernathy: Near the campus, somewhere? Near the university, you said, downstairs apartment of a house?
Rhoades: Yes, sir.
Investigator Abernathy: Tell me about the nature of that meeting.
Rhoades: We met online, we were just chatting. He was not wanting to go to bed. He invited me to come over and have some wine, hang out, talk, whatnot, watch a movie. I had just recently gotten home from hanging out with friends and I was bored myself, so I took him up on his offer. We just talked and had a good time.
Investigator Abernathy: Anybody else there with you guys when you were doing that?
Investigator Abernathy: Does he have roommates, or is he married?
Rhoades: No, married, and I'm pretty sure no roommate. He was looking for a roommate.
Investigator Abernathy: You had some drinks, hung out, you chatted. Spend the night?
Rhoades: No, we drank until the morning.
Investigator Abernathy: After midnight when you went down there?
Rhoades: Yeah, it was late.
Investigator Abernathy: Roughly, and it's hard to recall dates, but time‑wise ‑‑ 6:00 to midnight, midnight to 5:00 AM?
Rhoades: It was closer to midnight to 5:00 AM
Investigator Abernathy: Would that have been when you arrived at his house?
Rhoades: Yeah, yeah, it was late when I got there.
Investigator Abernathy: After midnight? I'm just trying to narrow...
Rhoades: Yeah, I think it was roughly after midnight.
Investigator Abernathy: Before 3:00 AM.
Investigator Abernathy: Sometime between midnight and 3:00 AM you arrive at this house.
Rhoades: Yes, sir.
Investigator Abernathy: You're having some drinks, you're chatting, you're hanging out, he couldn't sleep. What else?
Rhoades: We cleaned. He had just recently moved in, so I was helping him set up his apartment a little bit moving things around. He was telling me some of his back history, about some anxiety problems that he had and some depression, or whatever. Mental ‑‑ I don't want to say disorders ‑‑ but he suffers from anxiety attacks and whatnot.
Investigator Abernathy: Personal things going on in his life?
Investigator Abernathy: What time would you approximate that you left him?
Rhoades: I would say, roughly, 7:00 or 8:00 AM.
Investigator Abernathy: You say he was having some personal issues that he was just talking about.
Rhoades: Yeah. We had some similarities. We connected really well, and we were having some close conversations.
Investigator Abernathy: Let me back up a little bit. I failed to get some specifics on you before we started. I know your name's Nick Rhoades. Where do you live right now?
Rhoades: In Plainfield, do you want the exact address?
Investigator Abernathy: I'm sorry, what was that address?
Rhoades: It's [REDACTED], Plainfield.
Investigator Abernathy: Is that a farm?
Investigator Abernathy: Or, out in the country somewhere?
Rhoades: Yes, uh‑huh.
Investigator Abernathy: Just to verify, what is your date of birth?
Investigator Abernathy: You live there by yourself, or who else?
Rhoades: With parents.
Investigator Abernathy: Are you from around this area?
Rhoades: Yeah, I grew up in Waverly, actually.
Investigator Abernathy: Graduate from Waverly, and everything?
Investigator Abernathy: Tell me a little more about the conversation. What took place that evening?
Rhoades: We really just sat on his porch for a while, and he was just telling me about himself. We had never met before, and we just discussing different aspects of each others' lives, it was completely of a social nature. It was just a time‑killer for both of us. We both just had nothing going on. He seemed like a nice guy. He was pretty adamant to have me come over and hang out. I was hesitant, but...
Investigator Abernathy: Was that the first time you had every met Adam, was on that online chat room?
Investigator Abernathy: Again, I'm not trying to make you uncomfortable.
Rhoades: I'm a little uncomfortable.
Investigator Abernathy: You've probably got to realize, I probably not going to ask you a question I don't already know the answer to. Can I ask you what chat room that was?
Rhoades: It was Gay.com.
Investigator Abernathy: What was the intent of the meeting, if you will?
Rhoades: It was purely social. And I don't know if you can subpoena the – I don't know if they keep records of those chat conversations, but if they do, I'd be more than willing to share them, because I was quite clear that it was just of a social nature. That was my only intent for going over there. Like I said, that chat dialogue will confirm that. I was very specific about why I was going over there.
Investigator Abernathy: Was your visit purely social? Was there anything that would happen during that visit that would not be considered sociable?
Rhoades: He was making advances towards me, and I didn't really reciprocate at first. We did kiss some, but for certain reasons, I was unable to take it to a further level. He wasn't really pleased about that. It got a little uncomfortable towards the end, I guess. He told me after the fact, and I'll be honest, I've been concerned about him.
He did find out that I'm HIV‑positive, and he was very concerned about any interaction that he had with me, and I tried to assure him that nothing that happened between us was anything of risk. I've tried to give him phone calls and let him know...Again, I know he suffers from anxiety attacks, and he's a very emotional person, from what I gathered.
Making sure he's OK, and he hasn't...I talked to him once since I met him. Some people had informed him, after the fact, about my status, and I think he blew it out of proportion, if I can say so. I've been checking on him, every so often, just seeing how he's doing. I didn't know he reacted so severely as he did.
Investigator Abernathy: I need to ask you some questions, and again, I'm not here to embarrass you. That's not what this is about. I apologize for you being uncomfortable. I know in this situation, this is not where you wanted to be, and you didn't bank on being down here two hours ago.
Rhoades: That's OK.
Investigator Abernathy: But I'm going to ask you. I need to ask you. First let's start about how did he know your HIV status? When did he find this out?
Rhoades: He found out after the fact. I'm sure he was telling friends that he met a nice guy, or whatever, and we hung out. I'm pretty open about it, usually with closer people, definitely with people A, with a need to know basis, and B, some of my closer friends. I really don't advertise it, but at the same time I don't lie or hide it.
Investigator Abernathy: You guys maybe shared the same network of friends?
Investigator Abernathy: Somewhere, after your meeting, he's obviously met up with somebody who had met up with you, or knew you from somewhere.
Investigator Abernathy: You shared common friends, somewhere, who knew that information.
Investigator Abernathy: When did he notify you of this.
Rhoades: Less than a week ago, about a week ago. I had no idea that he had gone through everything that he's gone through.
Investigator Abernathy: What do you mean by that?
Rhoades: He told me he had gone to the Mayo Clinic, and he was retro‑viral medication, and all of this uproar. I was really kind of shocked, because, again, I thought he was overreacting. At the same time I tried to be comforting and reassuring that nothing happened to put him at risk, and he was OK. Again, his personality is one that...He's an anxious person, I guess but a very nice kid.
Investigator Abernathy: How long have you known you're HIV positive?
Rhoades: For several years.
Investigator Abernathy: More than two?
Rhoades: More than two.
Investigator Abernathy: Guess.
Rhoades: Iit was, roughly, 1999.
Investigator Abernathy: Roughly around 2000, then. You said you're pretty open with it with your friends, and it's not really a secret. You don't advertise it, but you tell your friends?
Rhoades: Exactly. It's too much to stress about.
Investigator Abernathy: Obviously.
Rhoades: It's a bad thing, but the more open I am, the less anxious I feel. People around me that I'm close to, I think it helps our friendship to be honest.
Investigator Abernathy: How come you didn't let Adam know?
Rhoades: Again, it's a need to know basis. There was no –
Investigator Abernathy: But you guys had sex?
Investigator Abernathy: You did not have sex?
Rhoades: We did not have sex.
Investigator Abernathy: Tell me about that. Obviously, that's what the claims are, and that's why I'm sitting in a chair talking to you right now.
Rhoades: That's what I was worried about. Again, I can only suspect, I can't say that I know 100 percent exactly what his motivations are. We hung out, we had a good time, we were drinking and he did make advances towards me.
Investigator Abernathy: Tell me about those advances.
Rhoades: We were talking, he started kissing me, and I did kiss him back. He was more aggressive, trying to take it to another level, but it wasn't a place, obviously, I wanted, or was able to go.
Again, the trial records indicate that I was very specific that I'm not coming over. I think I even said it clearly, "I'm not coming over for sex, just to hang out." Again, that would definitely collaborate my story there. I don't know. I think he was kind of upset towards the end, so it was uncomfortable and I left.
Hadn't heard from him, he had called me and invited me to come over and play a video game at one point, so I thought we were OK. Then he brought up the fact that he had heard rumors about me. I was very honest with him, "Yes that is true." I said, "There was nothing that put you at risk."
At the same time, I was concerned about him, because I like him. He seems like a decent kid. I offered to do whatever I could to help him. I gave him the name of my physician, even if he was concerned about that. I tried to be as honest and open with him, after I realized that he was panicking.
Investigator Abernathy: You don't have any indications why he would...
Rhoades: I can't say 100 percent that I understand his motivations, being as I don't know him that well.
Investigator Abernathy: Are you saying there was no oral or anal penetration?
Rhoades: No. No.
Investigator Abernathy: You look surprised. Which one of those surprised you?
Rhoades: Well, they both surprise me. With my condition I have to be pretty picky, I guess, about who I'm with and why I'm with them. Who I am with I'm very honest with. Again, I have other friends, even friends that are just acquaintances that I've been open with. I'm not a person who...I'm honest about it. Especially when it comes to a situation that would lead to possibly a sexual encounter.
Investigator Abernathy: What do you feel his motives are?
Rhoades: Again, I can't say for sure. I could speculate that A, he...I just don't know. I don't know him so well, maybe he was upset that I didn't reciprocate his advances, or B, that with his anxiety problems, maybe he overreacted to what happened and maybe got things all jumbled in his head. I don't know.
Plus, we were drinking quite heavily. I really don't know him well enough to understand exactly how his mind works. If that's what he's claiming, I can't say exactly why he would do that.
Investigator Abernathy: I need to step out for just a second, if you could hang with me here. You're doing all right?
Rhoades: Yeah, I'm OK. Thank you.
Investigator Abernathy: Just take a second here. I will be right back.
Investigator Abernathy: All right, here's the deal. I'm going to be straight up with you here. He called you within the last week, concerned about finding out of your HIV status. Where do you think those phone calls were probably made from?
Rhoades: I don't know his cell phone? He had a cell phone.
Investigator Abernathy: More specific, where do you think those phone calls were probably made from?
Rhoades: From the hospital? I don't know.
Investigator Abernathy: Straight from the police station.
Investigator Abernathy: Iowa's a one‑party consent state, which means that if I have somebody's permission, I can record a phone conversation. I did listen to your phone conversation.
Investigator Abernathy: I truly believe that you guys did have sex, and I truly believe that you know that, because I listened to you talk to him about it.
Rhoades: I would like to hear. Did you record the conversation?
Investigator Abernathy: Yes, it's submitted as evidence with this case. I know you're really uncomfortable now. That's not my intention, my intention is to...
Rhoades: I understand. I understand you're doing a job.
Investigator Abernathy: Here's what we've got. I have a search warrant on me right now for two things, and I already know I'm going to find those two things. I'm going to explain to you what the warrant is. It's going to involve your cooperation. It's going to mean that the people that I'm with are going to go to your house. They're going to execute a warrant on your premises, for starters. I'm going to read you this warrant so you know what it involves. Here's a copy of the warrant.
[inaudible 25:51] Nick Clayton Rhoades, [REDACTED]. To any peace officer of the State, proof having been made before me, as provided by law on this day, that certain property, to whit a blood sample from the suspect identified as Nick Clayton Rhoades, your soc., any and all medical records under the name of Nick Clayton Rhoades, any and all prescriptions under the name of Nick Clayton Rhoades at your house.
Investigator Abernathy: The blood is going to involve me taking you up to the ER at the Waverly Hospital.
Investigator Abernathy: They're going to draw a sample of your blood.
Investigator Abernathy: This is a search warrant, signed today at the Blackhawk County Court House, by Judge Zager.
Investigator Abernathy: That's what's going to take place.
Rhoades: What are they going to be looking for at my house, specifically?
Investigator Abernathy: The fact that you're HIV positive is not a secret. You've already admitted that to me. You've been very open to me about that. The search warrant's going to call for records confirming that, which I'm confident we're going to find. You want to talk to me about the sex act?
Investigator Abernathy: Do you want to tell me what really happened.
Rhoades: I really don't have anything to say about that.
Investigator Abernathy: Are you still denying that that took place, after giving you the information that I've given you? Because I've got you on tape talking to him. Your lawyer will be able to listen to that, my lawyer will be able to listen to that. I have you on tape. You're telling me it didn't happen. Are you still sticking to that now?
Rhoades: This is getting sticky. Unfortunately, it probably would be best if I did have representation.
Investigator Abernathy: OK.
Rhoades: Just because I don't want to...
Investigator Abernathy: I'm not here to do that, do you understand that? You have rights as a citizen. So you're requesting representation at this time?
Rhoades: I should, yeah.
Investigator Abernathy: This is still going to go. We're going to end our interview, OK? This is still going to go, because I have a valid warrant, signed by a judge.
Rhoades: Just to search to search my blood?
Investigator Abernathy: I'm going to take a sample of your blood.
Investigator Abernathy: We already know what we're going to find.
Investigator Abernathy: That's going to be sent in. They're going to go through the whole paperwork, and I'm going to get the paperwork back on that. Do you want to expedite the warrant on the property and let us know where some of those things are?
First of all, maybe we should talk about your meds. I obviously have a concern about your meds.
Rhoades: I'm very open about...
Investigator Abernathy: I'm just asking you if you want to...We're going to search this. Do you want to expedite any of that? What would probably be best at this time, being as you want legal representation...We're going to go and execute this warrant. Is there anybody at the house?
Rhoades: What time is it?
Investigator Abernathy: Ten after 3:00.
Rhoades: More than likely not.
Investigator Abernathy: Is the house unlocked?
Rhoades: Yes. Are you just searching for the medications?
Investigator Abernathy: This is what we're going to be searching for, and your copy. We're going to leave this at the place of residence.
Rhoades: I can show you exactly where it's at.
Investigator Abernathy: To expedite the time, I was going to take you up to the hospital, and we're going to do this part of it up there. Then if you want to drive out there, the deputies and investigators from Cedar Falls are going to go out there and get that done.
Investigator Abernathy: I think at this time...
Rhoades: I can tell them exactly where the medications are at.
Investigator Abernathy: OK. That's up to you. I don't want to...You requested an attorney, and I'm not going to talk to you about the case anymore.
Rhoades: I'm just trying to help, but there's...
Investigator Abernathy: I don't want to them tossing the house, if they don't have to toss the house, because that's what they're going to have to do to find stuff on this warrant. They'll have to go through drawers and whatnot.
Rhoades: I can tell them exactly where everything's at.
Investigator Abernathy: Why don't you just...Where would that be?
Rhoades: In the refrigerator, in the butter cub is where my HIV meds are. Other prescription meds are on the table next to my bed, again all prescriptions.
Investigator Abernathy: Do you have any questions on this? Again, you'll be left a copy of this.
Rhoades: Am I able to be there while they're searching the house?
Investigator Abernathy: You probably will be there for at least part of it.
Rhoades: Just because it's my parents' house.
Investigator Abernathy: I understand.
Rhoades: Is there any way that we could do that first? I would love to be able to do that while they're not having to endure it.
Investigator Abernathy: My only constraints would be the hospital. I don't know what their protocol is, as far as getting you up there "before hours, after hours."
Rhoades: Like I say, I'm more than happy to cooperate, just because it's my parents' residence. I'd love to be there and show them exactly where everything's at and expedite that, if possible.
Investigator Abernathy: OK.
Be right back. We'll get it figured out.
Rhoades: Thank you.
[background noises only]
Investigator Abernathy: We confident that that's unlocked? [inaudible 32:27] keys up with them in case it is locked, because I don't want them to break the door in or anything like that.
Rhoades: I'm confident it's unlocked.
Investigator Abernathy: OK.
Rhoades: Is there any way I can be present, though?
Investigator Abernathy: We're going to go ahead and go to the hospital.
Investigator Abernathy: And you probably ‑‑ honestly, I have concerns about taking any meds from you for health, obviously, because I'm sure you ‑‑ it's a daily regimen that you take. And I don't want to...
Rhoades: Yeah, it's...
Investigator Abernathy: If I see those, you're not going to take them. We're going to go up and photograph them and leave them be.
Rhoades: OK. Just let them know that they're in the refrigerator. None of the other medications that I have are HIV related.
Investigator Abernathy: OK.
Rhoades: So all the HIV meds are in the butter thing in the refrigerator.
Investigator Abernathy: You understand my concerns? I mean, obviously, I'm sure you probably have a daily regimen of that and I don't want to disrupt that.
Rhoades: Sure, I understand.
Investigator Abernathy: Anything's that's going to jeopardize your health.
Rhoades: I understand. I just don't want them going through my parents' drawers.
Investigator Abernathy: They have the legal right to do that. The judge said that they do, but that's not their intent. Our intent is just ‑‑ the scope of this warrant is just on your stuff. You're not going to come home and find stuff spewed all over. That's not what this is about.
Rhoades: That's what I'm concerned about.
Investigator Abernathy: Yeah, they have respect for your stuff. Don't get me wrong.
Rhoades: If I lived alone...
Investigator Abernathy: Yeah.
Rhoades: ...it'd be different.
Investigator Abernathy: Well, even if you did live alone, I mean, we're not ‑‑ that's not what this is about.
Rhoades: You told them exactly where it's at?
Investigator Abernathy: Yeah.
Investigator Abernathy: Yeah. But they want to know you're confident that it's unlocked. They're not going to get up there and it's locked.
Investigator Abernathy: They're going to go ahead and go up there. I'm going to take you up to the hospital, where this court order ‑‑ from my understanding is you're going to go in as an outpatient. This will be billed to the city of Cedar Falls. You don't have to worry about getting a bill in the mail or anything like that. Then I'm going to have you take your vehicle and then you're good to go.
Investigator Abernathy: We'll be contacting you.
Rhoades: OK. I understand.
Investigator Abernathy: If you have legal representation, you can have legal representation contact us at the Cedar Falls Police Department. Ask for the investigative...
Rhoades: Otherwise, you can provide me one?
Investigator Abernathy: Yes. Ask for an investigative captain.
Rhoades: You have a card or something I could have?
Investigator Abernathy: Yeah. If I don't, I'll get you one here.
Investigator Abernathy: Hang tight. We're going to get going. I want to get you out of here. I don't know if you have to go back to work or what, but again, you'll be free to leave. We're going to go up there, get that done and then you're free to go.
Rhoades: Thank you.
[background noises only]
Investigator Abernathy: Can I get your birth certificate out?
Investigator Abernathy: Just for the safety of our officers, any dirty needles or anything that they need to be aware of or anything laying out? Do you your needles in a sharps container and everything?
Rhoades: I don't have needles.
Investigator Abernathy: Oh, you just do pills?
Investigator Abernathy: OK. So nothing that would be a biohazard to them?
Rhoades: No, sir.
Investigator Abernathy: Thank you.
[background noises only]
Investigator Abernathy: Ready to roll?
You got your keys. [inaudible 40:22] out there and everything?
Rhoades: Thank you for your [inaudible 40:30] .
Investigator Abernathy: Not a problem.
Transcription by CastingWords