Unfair sentencing

Ex-college wrestler gets 10 years in bogus HIV transmission case

The sad and deeply unfair story of 25-year-old Michael Johnson, a.k.a. “Tiger Mandingo,” the former college wrestler sentenced to decades in prison for failing to disclose his HIV status, continues…

Just to recap: In 2015, Johnson was accused of  “recklessly infecting” multiple partners with HIV while he was a student at Lindenwood University in Missouri. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a jury pool stacked with white, HIV-negative heterosexuals, the majority of whom actually said they thought being gay was a sin.

Nothing unfair about any of that, right?

Related: College Wrestler Gets 30 Years In Prison For “Recklessly Transmitting HIV”

At the time, Johnson’s conviction once again raised questions about America’s HIV criminalization laws, which activists say ignore decades of medical science, fail to actually reduce infection rates, and disproportionately punish black men, as HIV rates are higher among people of color.

Both the American Medical Association and the Infectious Diseases Society of America have publicly condemned laws criminalizing HIV.

Johnson began serving his sentence at the South Central Correctional Facility in July of 2015 and spent his first year locked in solitary confinement.

Last December, his conviction was overturned after it was determined prosecutors had acted unfairly when they failed to share recorded conversations they had with Johnson to the defense. Those recordings were what was ultimately used to convict him.

After the conviction was thrown own, prosecutors quickly refiled charges. Now, after several months of negotiating with Johnson and his lawyers, they’ve offered him a plea bargain: No admission of guilt and 10 year sentence (with credit for time served), or a retrial and a potential 96-year prison sentence.

Related: Jailed HIV-Positive Wrestler Pens Heartbreaking Letter From Solitary Confinement

Yes, you read that correctly, 96 years.

With no good options, Johnson accepted the plea. He will continue serving his time at the South Central Correctional Facility.

This latest development once again highlights the need for HIV criminalization laws to be wiped from the books.

Rashaan Gilmore, the program director of the Kansas City chapter of Blaqout, tells MetroWeekly such laws “foster neither safer sex practices nor shared responsibility for sexual health.”

Mayo Schreiber, deputy director of the Center for HIV Law and Policy, adds: “It is disturbing that Michael is not yet a free man and was not exonerated after his years-long struggle for justice, but we respect and support his decision not to risk a life behind bars.”

“It likely is the end of his case, but our work to bring an end to HIV criminal laws like Missouri’s continues.”

Related: Are Criminal HIV Transmission Laws Outdated?

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30 Comments

  • Sam6969

    Another unfamous illustration of a deeply twisted and archaic judiciary system.

    • ChrisK

      I’d like to know what evident the prosecutors withheld to get a victory. 30 years was definitely biased to him being black and gay. Reminds me of the Jim Crow era where black men were treated in some barbaric way for nothing more then looking at a white women the wrong way.

      He would’ve never got that kind of sentence in a state less hostile to gay men.

    • Sam6969

      Yes, whatever his real culpability, the trial was initially biased due to unfair existing laws and a bigoted jury.

  • am_psi

    The original sentence was more appropriate. I know somebody’s going to say, “But HIV isn’t a death sentence anymore!” So what. Getting punched every day wouldn’t be fatal either, but he would go to jail for that. Or for holding them hostage for an hour a day. Or for constantly stealing from their wallets. Well having even a manageable chronic illness is a huge sink of stress, time, effort and money. If he knowingly exposed multiple people to a lifetime of suffering, a little jail-time is well deserved.

    • WindsorOntario

      To add to that, we are very naive if we assume that ‘HIV/AIDS isn’t what it used to be with these new medications’. Until they don’t work anymore, or until there’s a new strain that is more complex, or until politicians screw up health care making it impossible for the majority of HIV+ people to afford $1400 a month medications that insurance will no longer cover (or if millions lose their insurance altogether).

      These are scary times. Don’t get too ahead of yourselves because all these scientific studies and advances and access to health care/medications can all come to an end.

    • remyfacade

      Am_psi. 30 was over kill, 10 is more appropriate, still a bit much but more appropriate. I’m basing my opinion on the fact that a lot of ppl don’t get 10 for actually killing a person. He clearly didn’t have a fair trial.

  • KaiserVonScheiss

    You can make an argument that the punishment is severe, but not disclosing your positive status to someone, when you know you are positive, should be a crime. Period.

    Nothing you can say changes the fact that he knowingly exposed had sex with someone without revealing his positive status.

    And what does the jury being white and not having HIV have to do with anything? You either potentially exposed someone to HIV without their knowledge or you didn’t.

    Apparently “social justice” means abrogating personal responsibility.

    • ChrisK

      I totally agree. Why does it matter if a black person gets an all white jury in a very conservative area. We all know that justice is color blind.

    • genericbrand

      And God forbid men take responsibility for their own sexual health and stop playing the victim of someone ‘not disclosing’

    • tham

      But shouldn’t we criminalize all STDs then. Why one and not the others? People lie about herpes all the time…and that’s a virus that stays with you the rest of your life.

      I just find arbitrary laws to be inheritly unjust. This is no exception.

    • Xzamilloh

      Okay, tham, I get you, but that’s a really bad analogy. Unless herpes stands a chance of developing into something that completely obliterates your immune system and leaves you exposed to a magnitude of diseases linked to said herpes, then your point is not a valid one. However, I do agree that he should have disclosed his HIV status, but even then, him saying he’s HIV negative or saying nothing at all does remove personal responsibility from his sex partners. You don’t leave it to someone else to make an informed decision on your health. Assume everyone has something and protect yourself or move the hell on.

    • KaiserVonScheiss

      @tham

      HIV is far more severe. And those medicines don’t always work on everyone. There are rare cases where it is still a death sentence. And even if the meds do work, they are are now living a life with additional costs.

      @Genericbrand

      Wrong!

      Other people can’t read your mind. The duty is on you to disclose your status.

    • ChrisK

      The “duty” is on the person taking something into their body. The responsibility is ultimately theirs unless it was rape.

    • ChrisK

      Say I like like rat poison injected up my ass and I advertise for some someone to come over and do just that. Do you think I have some responsibility for said action or is it just for someone that comes over?

    • KaiserVonScheiss

      @ChrisK

      Apples and oranges. You KNOW that putting rat poison up your ass isn’t exactly healthy. But if you have sex with someone who doesn’t disclose, then you DON’T KNOW if they have HIV or not.

      I don’t care about people’s reasons, if you don’t disclose, you’re a piece of shit. Period.

    • gmale

      @Kaiser :

      jury being white… social justice means abrogating personal responsibility

      and apparently being conservative means abrogating Reason and avoid looking at historical precedence .

      @am Pasi : I wonder if you would hold the same judgement for your white dominated bare backing scene?

  • Daniel-Reader

    Note that 1 out of every 2 heterosexuals has HPV which can lead to sterility and death in their hetero partners but that’s not criminalized. And don’t get started on heteros and herpes. Seems hypocritical these HIV criminalization laws exist in current times given medical advances and increased awareness/education.

    • Goddess24

      Absolutely agreed! I’ve been saying this for over 20 years! I used to work in the Medical field as an HIV/SIT specialist and when clients asked me which infection was worse, I would say, I would rather be stabbed with an HIV infected knife, than to have someone with Herpes scratch their rash and tickle me with those hands!” Herpes directly attacks the body, specifically the heart and the brain, yet there is repercussion for transmitting that virus! Why? Because transmission rates are higher among heterosexuals.. CDCP and the media don’t talk about those outbreaks, but when there’s an HIV outbreak, it’s titled as an EPIDEMIC! Ridiculous!

    • ChrisK

      HPV causes several types of cancer. Cervical cancer: Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV, and just two HPV types, 16 and 18, are responsible for about 70% of all cases (7, 8). Anal cancer: About 95% of anal cancers are caused by HPV.

      Hepatitis is another one.

  • He BGB

    Everyone freaked out in the 1980s when the first cases were discovered. You died and died a slow agonizing death and all cases known were gay men so it even was called gay cancer. That was over 30 years ago. The hysteria is mostly gone now especially after 1996 when new drugs made it manageable and straight people were being infected. Ijust think having this one infectious disease a crime seems unfair. There are other infectious contagious diseases but because this one is sexual, and still considered gay, and people remember the horrible deaths of men shrivelingup and dying, there is still an hysteria. From the people who still think gays are pedophiles and recruit children.

  • Ummmm Yeah

    For anyone defending this form or murder, Ebola is curable these days too. Any of you willing to be injected with it willingly? Now imagine if someone gave it to you against your will.

    • Xzamilloh

      Against their will? First of all, he didn’t rape any of them, they willingly had unprotected sex with him because he did not disclose his status or lied about it, which I agree was wrong and it did in a way remove their right to make an informed decision. But, I refuse to put the onus entirely on one party or the other, because TWO people make a choice to have unprotected sex and someone simply saying “I’m negative” would not remove personal responsibility from the other party, at least not where I stand on the matter.

    • gmale

      No one injected the supposed victims with HIV. That would be criminal…
      Having sex is often a complex phenomena and often people choose to bareback or have sex with strangers or anonymous sex ignoring the risks involved.

      Even if we make it a crime to NOT disclose one’s HIV status, we cannot criminalize two adults from making free choices when it comes to sex and many gay men will still have sex with guys who are HIV pod. The gay bare backing scene is reflective of this principle.

  • Chris

    I agree that people should be obliged to disclose all STDs to their partners prior to having sex. And I also agree that protection is a two-way obligation.

    A woman I know used her ex-husband’s having infected her with herpes without disclosing it during her divorce to force him to increase the settlement quite substantially. So the law is starting to go there, slowly but surely.

  • JerseyMike

    EVERYBODY I sleep with is positive until proven otherwise… What fool sleeps with someone RAW because a person tells you he is negative… People lie about obvious sh!t… D!ck size, age… Look at profiles online… EVERYBODY is negative… REALLY!?! Grow up people… take your life into your own hands. Stop blaming others for your stup!d mistakes.

  • Kangol

    Whether or not people disclose their HIV status, everyone should assume the person they are having unprotected sex with has HIV (and any other STIs), and act accordingly. But under no circumstances should HIV positive people be charged with a crime for not disclosing if people possessing other chronic, transmissible diseases are not also liable. On top of this, scientists have just discovered that a far wider group of viruses are transmissible by semen, so are we going to now start charging people with crimes if they know they have one of those viruses and then knowingly have sex without disclosing it?

  • Heywood Jablowme

    The most important part of this story is there was NO proof that he infected anyone. His “victims” were all sluts, who liked bareback sex, who could have gotten HIV from any of their other bareback tricks.

    Where are the slut-shamers when you need them? Oh right, it’s apparent from this comment thread that the slut-shamers hate black guys even more than they hate sluts.

    • ChrisK

      I remember that being a point with the accuser. Like he admitted his idea of prevention was just assuming they were negative by how healthy they looked. Will never even know if he asked him one way of the other. He said..he said kind of stuff.

      Your point is right on cue though. He preferred BB sex. If this was a rape situation then we could point fingers.

      Btw. I know plenty of people like this. They’ll point to one person like it’s all their fault yet their some of the biggest sluts in the world and it’s a true headslap event.

  • remyfacade

    Yes he was died wrong and deserves to be locked up. 10 is more than enough. However his “victims” share just as much of the blame of the catching it.

  • Luna1979

    I think knowingly infecting someone with HIV is horrendous!! No, you may not die from it, but just as the point was made that the accused was unfairly convicted in part because he had HIV proves exactly why what he did was so awful. These infected people will now face the same stigma he has. They will have to disclose their condition for the rest of their lives and be judged for it over and over. They will have to pay thousands of dollars for treatment which this guy would never be able to pay for them. In essence, he ruined their lives knowingly. Ten years is not very long for causing such damage.

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