Student Charged in Extortion of Doctor

A Harvard University student on summer break was charged Friday with attempted extortion for demanding that a doctor who had tested positive for the AIDS virus give him $10,000 or face public exposure of his condition.

John Michael Fountain, 21, pleaded not guilty Friday to attempted extortion and sending a threatening letter for extortion, Deputy Dist. Atty. Deborah Kranze said. He faces as much as three years in prison if he is convicted, and is being held in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Investigators said the blackmail failed because the doctor, whose name is being withheld, already had informed his patients that he had tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and had posted a notice in his waiting room. Fountain was arrested by sheriff's deputies early Wednesday outside a West Hollywood bar after he allegedly tried to pick up an envelope he thought contained the $10,000 payment.

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