There is a conviction in Missouri in a novel criminal case where a former Lindenwold University student Michael L. Johnson, 23, was found guilty of infecting another man with HIV and endangering four others while attending the college in suburban St. Louis. These cases are often difficult to establish given the question of what was known and what was disclosed in an otherwise consensual sexual encounter.
Missouri is one of roughly a dozen states that criminalized exposing others to infection — controversial laws that are often based on circumstantial evidence and could be used to target homosexuals.
Johnson was convicted Thursday on the five counts but was acquitted on a sixth count of exposing another man to the virus that causes AIDS.
Johnson was a college wrestler who was expelled from the university and has been in jail since his arrest in 2013. The challenge for the defense was what may have seemed implausible for the jury. The former high school wrestling champion had tested positive in Indianapolis two years before being diagnosed in Missouri. However, Johnson insisted that he did not remember going to a clinic in Indiana for testing or getting a positive result. That clearly did not convince the jury which took just two hours and 20 minutes to find him guilty.
It is a tragic turn of events for Johnson but no doubt a sense of justice for those exposed unwittingly to HIV. He now faces a maximum punishment of life in prison, the newspaper reported.
Johnson’s case has drawn the attention of gay rights activists and some legal reform groups. They say laws in Missouri and dozens of other states criminalize a medical condition and deter those at risk of infection from seeking medical treatment.