Missouri man accused of ‘recklessly infecting’ two with HIV on trial

Missouri man accused of ‘recklessly infecting’ two with HIV on trial
Michael L. Johnson
Michael L. Johnson

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — A man who prosecutors say recklessly endangered other gay men by having sex with them and not revealing he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS is on trial in Missouri.

Gay rights activists and some legal reform groups say Michael L. Johnson’s case highlights outdated laws. They say such laws in Missouri and more than 30 other states criminalize a medical condition and deter those at risk of infection from seeking help.

Johnson, 23, faces felony HIV exposure charges. Prosecutors accuse him of “recklessly infecting” two male sex partners with HIV and knowingly exposing four others over nearly 10 months after being diagnosed as HIV positive in January 2013. He has pleaded not guilty and his trial began with jury selection Monday in suburban St. Louis.

The encounters occurred in Johnson’s dorm room and other campus housing at Lindenwood University, a private school in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles. Johnson, of Indianapolis, was a wrestler at Lindenwood.

Johnson’s public defender did not respond to multiple interview requests, and a spokeswoman for St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar said he was unavailable to discuss the case before trial.

Johnson is charged with two counts of recklessly infecting another with HIV and four counts of recklessly risking infection of another with HIV. All of the charges are felonies.

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Under Missouri law, Johnson faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years if convicted of the recklessly infecting another with HIV charges. The other four charges carry possible sentences of between five and 15 years.

Kimber Mallett, a Lindenwood graphics design instructor who has regularly visited Johnson in jail since his October 2013 arrest, said her former student rejected a plea bargain and “wants to fight” the charges.

“He doesn’t think he did anything wrong,” she said.

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