Missouri Wrestler Who Faced 30 Years For Exposing Partners To HIV Granted Parole

Michael Johnson's sentence was longer than some for second-degree murder.

A college wrestler convicted of exposing sex partners to HIV without disclosing his status has been granted parole.

In 2013, Michael Johnson, nicknamed “Tiger Mandingo,” was charged with “recklessly” infecting partners with HIV. After six men testified he failed to disclose he was HIV-positive, Johnson was sentenced to 30.5 years in prison. But a new trial was ordered in 2016 when a Missouri appeals court ruled prosecutors withheld evidence.

The following year, Johnson accepted a 10-year plea deal. He will now be released from Boonville Correctional Facility on October 9, 2019, almost six years after his initial arrest.

”We had some hopes, because of all the support Michael had received and a couple of other factors, that he would get out at an earlier date,” Johnson’s lawyer, Eric Selig, told Buzzfeed.

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Johnson will reportedly live with friends in Indiana when he is released, checking in regularly with parole officers through 2023.

The case shined a spotlight on HIV criminalization laws, which critics say are outdated and biased: Johnson was originally convicted of five counts of recklessly exposing and infecting partners, a Class B felony under Missouri’s HIV criminalization law and actually a longer sentence than many handed out for second-degree murder in Missouri.

Defense attorneys argued Johnson’s partners had a responsibility for their own sexual health, and that HIV is not the death sentence it was when the mandatory disclosure law were enacted in the 1990s. They accused the D.A.’s office of using fearmongering and racism to get a conviction: Prosecutors included graphic descriptions of Johnson’s “huge” penis at trial and presented images of it.

Note: This story has been updated to correct inaccuracies in the original article. We regret the error.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.