Michael L. Johnson’s aspiring wrestling career came crashing down when allegations first broke that he had concealed his HIV-positive status from men who he was having unprotected sex with back in 2013. Now, the 23-year-old will spend three decades behind bars because of it.
The ex-Linden University college wrestler was sentenced to 30 years in prison for infecting another man with HIV. He also was sentenced with 30.5 years for four lesser charges, which the judge ruled could be served concurrently.
St. Charles County Circuit Judge Jon Cunningham, who proceeded over the case, told Johnson he had committed “very severe” crimes. During the initial trial, the defense for Johnson claimed the young man was not aware of his status; however, evidence provided by state of Missouri said otherwise.
“The main thing is the profound effect your actions have had on the victims and their families,” Cunningham said.
“He will infect people for his own sick purposes,” one victim stated. “He has lost the privilege to be free.”
Johnson didn't speak much during the sentencing but did offer sympathy to the victims.
“I never want anyone to have to go through the pain” of having HIV, he said.
Heather Donovan, Johnson’s attorney, did plead with the judge for a lesser sentence. Contracting the virus is "not a death sentence," she argued, citing the progression in HIV research and advancement in medicine since Missouri decided it was a crime to deliberately and recklessly expose another to the virus.
But assistant prosecutor Philip Groenweghe disagreed, saying Johnson deserves severe punishment for his actions.
“This defendant was totally irresponsible and placed countless people at risk,” he said.
Follow George Chapman Jr. on Twitter: @writefrombk
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