An Ontario man convicted of 15 counts of aggravated assault for knowingly exposing women to HIV has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The Crown and police had been arguing that Carl Leone, 31, of Windsor, Ont., should be labelled a dangerous or long-term offender, a designation that would have saddled him with tough conditions at the end of his sentence.

But the judge ruled that Leone did not meet the criteria for that label.

Leone was given sentences ranging from two to five years for each count of assault, to be served consecutively.

While the number of years totalled 49, the judge reduced the sentence to 18 years to better reflect sentencing guidelines laid out in the Criminal Code.

Leone had pleaded guilty to 15 counts of aggravated assault in April. He was facing 20 counts before a plea arrangement was made.

Five of Leone's 15 victims are HIV-positive. Some of the victims were drugged and assaulted while unconscious. Others who consented to sexual intercourse said Leone refused to wear a condom.

One of the victims who tested positive for HIV was a 16-year-old virgin when she had intercourse with Leone.

"I feel dead inside. I'm just going through the motions of living. I'm just waiting to die," the victim, known as J.J., wrote in a statement read during the dangerous offender hearing.

"I'll never get married. I'll never have children," said another HIV-positive victim, known only as J.H., who was 20 when she met Leone.

Lead detective 'proud of all the women'

The lead detective in the case, Windsor Police Service Det. Pat Keane, praised the women for being brave enough to come forward with their stories.

"I'm just really proud of all the women. They did it for all the right reasons — for the community," he said outside the courtroom on Friday.

Leone was informed by Windsor Essex County Health workers that he was HIV-positive in 1997. At that time, they told him that the law required him to disclose his HIV status to sexual partners.

Police arrested Leone on June 6, 2004, after they were contacted by his girlfriend.

Investigators feared there might be other victims and released his photo to the public, urging his sexual partners to get tested. More than 200 people flooded the local health unit for testing.

Under a 1998 Supreme Court ruling, a person who fails to disclose HIV-positive status before having unprotected sexual intercourse can be convicted of aggravated assault and face life in prison.

With files from the Canadian Press