Missouri

Man on trial in HIV exposure case previously tested positive, say prosecutors

Michael L. Johnson

Michael L. Johnson

Michael L. Johnson

Michael L. Johnson

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — A 23-year-old man accused of exposing other gay men to HIV while attending college in suburban St. Louis tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS in Indiana two years before being diagnosed in Missouri, prosecutors said Tuesday.

They disclosed the new evidence during their opening statement in Michael L. Johnson’s trial in St. Charles County. The former wrestler at Lindenwood University in St. Charles is accused of infecting two of his sex partners and endangering four others. He has pleaded not guilty to six felony charges.

His public defender declined to make an opening statement and did not address Johnson’s earlier test while cross-examining three prosecution witnesses.

The former state high school wrestling champion from Indianapolis could face decades in prison if convicted. Johnson also was a junior college national champion at Lincoln College in Illinois.

Johnson’s case has drawn the attention of gay rights activists and some legal reform groups. They say that laws in Missouri and dozens of other states criminalize a medical condition and deter those at risk of infection from seeking medical treatment.

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Court documents allege that Johnson told two of his sex partners that he was disease-free when asked, but in other cases the at-risk person apparently didn’t inquire.

“He didn’t just fail to disclose” his status, said assistant county prosecutor Philip Groenweghe. “When he was specifically asked if he was clean … he lied.”

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