A San Francisco man living with AIDS is claiming an employee of the Stop AIDS Project recently sent him emails saying “You are about to die of AIDS I feel bad for you,” among other things.
Ryan Bentham, 32, said he and Mario Royal, the Stop AIDS worker, went out from 2011 to 2013. Bentham said the relationship ended because of his long work hours.
He reached out to Royal in June 2014 after he was diagnosed and became ill. Royal’s reaction wasn’t good. Bentham said that at one point Royal sent him a text that said something to the effect of “I hope you die a horrible death.” Bentham didn’t save the message.
Then, he says, he got three emails from Royal February 18, which he shared with the Bay Area Reporter and other media outlets today (Wednesday, April 15). The emails, which bear Royal’s name, all came from a Gmail account, rather than a Stop AIDS account.
The first message says, “Good luck on your journey to death.” Several hours later, another email came that reads, “Why do you care you fat ugly sick bitch … I don’t want your punk bitch ugly ass … I’m too sexy for you!!!!!!!!!!” The third message says, “You are about to die of AIDS I feel bad for you.”
In a Facebook exchange with the B.A.R., Royal said of Bentham, “Dude he is fucking crazy,” and he’s “a tweaker who hacks into [people's] shit. … Fuck Ryan!!!!!!” He said he plans to get a restraining order against Bentham.
Royal also told a reporter, “Who are u and why do u need a story about that crazy guy. I don’t email him I text that bitch!!!! He hacked into my phone. I have witnessed him hacking into [people's] computers before so I’m sure he hacked into my phone and stole my contact, text, [etc.]”
Bentham said he doesn’t know what he could’ve done to provoke Royal’s emails.
“He was really bitter, for some reason,” Bentham said, and the messages were “very outside of his personality.”
He said he was “shocked” that Royal “had that kind of hatred toward HIV/AIDS patients” and he was also surprised that Stop AIDS hired Royal in the first place.
“This is not a person that should be working with HIV patients,” he said.
Bentham, who works for the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services, said he’s never been a client of Royal’s. Stop AIDS is a program of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Bentham said he contacted the nonprofit last year after Royal’s first message and emailed the organization again Wednesday morning, but he hasn’t received a response.
“I’m deeply disappointed to know that your organization employs Mr. Royal with such hatred toward humanity and lack of understanding in regards to AIDS/HIV positive people,” Bentham told the AIDS foundation in his email Wednesday.
He said he texted Royal last year that he was going to go to Royal’s supervisor, to which Royal responded, “LOL. They love me. They’ll never fire me. I’m the one that makes it all work.” (Bentham said he doesn’t have the texts between him and Royal anymore.)
Bentham’s just now talking about Royal’s messages because “It got under my skin” when he was reading through old emails.
He said he thought, “If all these other people are going to this person for support … Good God, maybe I should let somebody else know that cares.”
Bentham doesn’t want Royal to get fired, but “I just think that they should have him in a different position than assisting people with HIV or AIDS,” he said.
Andrew Hattori, a spokesman for the AIDS foundation, said, “We are looking into” Bentham’s allegations, “but we’re not talking publicly about personnel issues.”
Hattori said he couldn’t comment on whether Royal’s still working for the organization or what may happen to him if the emails are shown to have come from him.
In an email, James Loduca, the AIDS foundation’s vice president for philanthropy and public affairs, said, “This morning is the first we’ve learned of Mr. Bentham’s allegations. We take them seriously, and are looking into them immediately.”
Loduca said he’s reached out to Bentham “to let him know that we take matters like this very seriously, and that his email has triggered an internal investigation into the matter.”
The nonprofit “has a long tradition of promoting respect and dignity for all people living with HIV/AIDS,” Loduca said, and “I can assure you that once the investigation is complete, the appropriate action will be taken based on its findings.”
However, as Hattori had mentioned, he said, “personnel issues are confidential and cannot otherwise be discussed.”
It appears Royal is still working for Stop AIDS. A woman who answered the phone at the AIDS foundation this morning immediately transferred a call to his direct line, where the outgoing recording includes his name.
In his message to the B.A.R. and others, Bentham included San Francisco Superior Court documents related to a small claims case a man filed against Royal in December 2014. The man said Royal had thrown away several items of his, including pictures of his partner, who’d died of AIDS. A judge eventually ordered Royal to pay the man more than $5,000.
Bentham has had his own court problems, records show. In 2012, two men who lived in a single-room occupancy hotel Bentham was managing requested restraining orders against him.
One of the men claimed that Bentham had made “unwanted sexual advances” toward him and called him “Sweet cheek tight ass,” among other problems. Bentham denied the claims.
The cases were ultimately dismissed with prejudice after none of the parties showed up for one hearing, and the plaintiff didn’t appear for the other.