A former Lindenwood University wrestler, and student, has been found guilty of knowingly spreading HIV. The verdict was read in St. Charles County Court Thursday night after three days of testimony.
A jury found Michael Johnson guilty on five of six counts against him. Three of the six counts were exposing someone to HIV, and three were attempting to expose someone to HIV. One count for each of the people accusing Johnson of exposing them to the virus without their knowledge.
Johnson testified that he was diagnosed as HIV positive in January of 2013 after seeking treatment at the campus health center when he wasn’t feeling well. Prosecutors say Johnson was also diagnosed in his home state of Indiana in 2011. But, Johnson claims he wasn’t informed of that diagnosis.
On Friday, a jury recommended a sentence of 60 ½ years in prison. The judge will now decide to accept, reject or modify the recommendation. At a minimum, he faces 10 years.
The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, is speaking out for Johnson.
“I am deeply saddened, frustrated and angered by the guilty verdict and now subsequent sentencing of Michael Johnson in Missouri,” said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, NBJC Executive Director & CEO in a statement. “Michael, a former state and national champion in wrestling on the collegiate level, represents so many of our young Black sons who are faced with a HIV diagnosis, while simultaneously living in a world that continues to perpetuate stigma and ignorance through irrational, baseless HIV criminalization laws. These horrific laws place the burden of disclosing ones HIV status solely on the shoulders of those who are living with this treatable condition. Yet we know that sexual relations between two consenting adults are not a one-way interaction.”