Man gets 30 years in prison for knowingly exposing partners to HIV

A former college wrestler was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison for recklessly infecting a sex partner with HIV and risking the infection of four others.
Jurors in May found Michael L. Johnson, 23, guilty of five felony charges after testimony that included experts in infectious diseases and the men who had unprotected sex with him. One of the men contracted HIV, which causes AIDS.
St. Charles County Circuit Judge Jon Cunningham, who pronounced the sentence, told Johnson he had committed “very severe” crimes. Prosecutors said he didn’t tell the partners he had HIV.
“The main thing is the profound effect your actions have had on the victims and their families,” the judge said.
Johnson was given 30 years on the most serious allegation and a total of 30  years on the four lesser charges. The sentence was recommended by the jury. Cunningham decided to have the terms on the lesser charges run concurrently with the 30-year sentence.
Earlier in the hearing, a victim warned that Johnson would commit similar acts again if he wasn’t sent to prison.
“He will infect people for his own sick purposes,” said the man. “He has lost the privilege to be free.”
Johnson, in a brief statement, didn’t apologize but said, “I never want anyone to have to go through the pain” of having HIV.
Some gay rights advocates and legal reform groups say HIV criminalization is outdated, in part because of advances in treatment for the virus.
Johnson’s attorney, Heather Donovan, made a similar argument Monday.
She asked the judge for a 10-year prison term, saying that contracting HIV “is not a death sentence anymore” and things have changed since Missouri legislators passed the law in the 1980s.
Assistant prosecutor Philip Groenweghe said Johnson deserves severe punishment, saying he told his partners that he was HIV-negative. “This defendant was totally irresponsible and placed countless people at risk,” Groenweghe said.

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