Michael Johnson Released From Prison Five Years Into 30-Year “HIV Exposure” Sentence

Michael Johnson—also known as “Tiger Mandingo,” the Missouri man who was sentenced to a previously unheard of 30.5 years in prison for “knowingly” infecting another man with HIV—has been released from prison five years into his sentence.

According to Buzzfeed News, Johnson was set free from prison in Boonville, Missouri, this Tuesday, July 9, thanks to a previous no-contest “Alford” plea deal.

Back in 2015, Johnson, a black man and former college wrestler living with HIV, was convicted of recklessly transmitting the virus to another man—and exposing the virus to four other men who didn’t contract it—under Missouri’s HIV criminalization law. He was accused of transmitting HIV to another man, too, but not convicted on that charge. (In 2016, Missouri judges granted Johnson a new trial, but he then won the “Alford” plea deal, which didn’t require him to admit guilt.)

The now-infamous case, which went on to spark a nationwide debate on the ethics of legislation criminalizing HIV transmission, is widely recognized as racially charged. Of Johnson’s six accusers, four were white men.

Johnson in 2013, when he was arrested on the aforementioned charges.

As HIV Plus magazine notes, the law used to prosecute Johnson is one of a series of outdated and blatantly homophobic HIV nondisclosure statutes enacted during or after the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, when HIV was thought of as a “gay man’s disease.” Many of these laws are still on the books today—and make it legal for judges to jail people found guilty of “knowingly” transmitting HIV, whether or not infection actually occurred or the spread was even possible.

“I feel great,” Johnson told Buzzfeed News reporter Steven W. Thrasher, who’s followed his case for nearly six years. “Leaving prison is such a great feeling.”

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.


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