A man who was convicted for recklessly exposing someone else with HIV has been granted parole.
Michael Johnson, also known as “Tiger Mandingo,” initially faced over 30 years in prison, but will be released on parole in October 2019, his lawyers said.
After a conviction was thrown out due to prosecutors failing to give necessary evidence to the defense, Johnson accepted a plea deal for ten years in prison. He is set to get out on parole after six years in prison.
Johnson’s case made headlines as his case was prosecuted. In 2013, he was a college wrestler at Lindenwood University, an African American student at a mostly-white college and one of the first people many locals knew to be HIV-positive in the small town.
His case shined a light on the effects of HIV disclosure laws. Since his trial, the American Medical Association adopted a resolution that said, “There is no evidence that criminal penalties aid in HIV prevention,” and that they “can be a powerful disincentive for people to engage and remain in HIV care.”
The HIV Medicine Association, the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care, the National Alliance of State, and Territorial AIDS Directors have all criticized HIV disclosure laws in the last few years.
Also, HIV disclosure laws are more likely to be used against African Americans than against white people. Johnson’s case put that in stark relief: his trial involved being accused by multiple white sexual partners that he exposed them to HIV, and prosecutors even presented images of his “huge” penis as evidence.
The trial was also open to accusations of homophobia. One report on 51 potential jurors in Johnson’s trial found said that over half said that being gay is a “choice” and only one-third believed that being gay was not a sin. The prosecutor asked each juror what they thought about gay people, and those who said positive things did not end up in the jury.
All the jurors were straight, and 11 of the 12 were white.
Last, the case showed how HIV disclosure laws depend on “victims” who participate in the “crime.” One white sexual partner told Buzzfeed that he barebacked with Johnson because he said he was “clean.” The sexual partner said that he barebacked with a few men he barely knew, and that he could tell if someone was HIV-negative “by looking at them.”
A community HIV advocate said, “It really burned me that the statements said that Michael didn’t use condoms… Neither did the other guys.”
Meredith Rowan, who attended Johnson’s parole hearing, said that she was “excited” that he’ll be getting out of prison in 18 months. Johnson will be staying with her family in Indiana when he’s released.