Former wrestler may face 60-year jail sentence for ‘recklessly’ transmitting HIV

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A former college wrestling champ has been sentenced to 60 years in prison after being found guilty for recklessly transmitting HIV.

Michael Johnson, a former Missouri wrestling star known as ‘Tiger Mandingo’, was found guilty by a court of a number of charges after seeking men for unprotected sex via hook-up apps, despite being HIV-positive.

He was found guilty this week of one count of recklessly infecting a partner with HIV, one count of attempting to recklessly infect a partner with HIV, and three counts of recklessly exposing partners to HIV.

The 23-year-old was found guilty on five of six counts against him, three of exposing someone to HIV, and three of attempting to do so.

A jury has recommended a 30-year sentence for the more serious charge, and the lesser charges could bring the sentence over to 60 years.

The time served will be imposed by St Charles County Circuit Judge Jon Cunningham, and will depend on whether the sentences run consecutively or concurrently.

Under Missouri state law, it is an offence to fail to disclose your HIV status to a sexual partner – but Johnson’s partner Dylan King Lemons became concerned after finding Johnson on gay hook-up apps.

Mr Lemons tested positive for HIV, leading to the case against Johnson.

Johnson was also found guilty for knowingly exposing three further men – Christian Green, Filip Cukovic, and Andrew Tryon – to HIV, as well as attempting to expose a fourth, Montell Moore.

He was not found guilty of infecting one man, Charles Pfoutz.

Johnson testified that he had informed all six men about his HIV status – but now faces a minimum of 10 years in prison for failing to disclose.

Many states have laws that make it a crime to fail to disclose your HIV status, even if sex is protected or viral load is undetectable.

The laws are controversial, with some HIV campaigners calling for a more nuanced system.

Kenyon Farrow of the Treatment Action Group told Fusion: “Throwing people in jail is probably the worst thing you can do if you want to encourage people to feel comfortable enough to get tested for HIV, receive treatment and openly discuss their status.

“If people are so concerned with HIV transmission, then perhaps the Missouri legislature and Governor Nixon should start by repealing this law, and expanding Medicaid to ensure everyone with and at risk for HIV, has access to appropriate services and healthcare.”

In England and Wales, you can be found guilty of reckless HIV transmission for knowingly transmitting HIV – while in Scotland you can also face charges for exposing people to HIV even if transmission did not take place.