Michael Johnson was sentenced to an unprecedented 30.5 years for not telling his partners that he is HIV positive has been released today, 25 years early.
Johnson has been released after an appeals court condemned his original trial as “fundamentally unfair”.
He said, with a big smile on his face, that he feels great as he left Boonville Correctional Center on Tuesday.
Johnson was a college wrestler once, and he was known online as “Tiger Mandingo”.
He was arrested in 2013 for “recklessly transmitting HIV” to two men he slept with and exposing four others to it.
Four of the six men that were exposed to HIV were white, and his trial has been racially charged.
He was convicted of one of the two transmission cases and of all four exposure cases, but the resulting sentence was longer than the average sentence in the state for much worse crimes, as reported by BuzzFeed News.
Since his arrest back in 2013, his story has become a flashpoint in the debate about laws that criminalize HIV transmission.
Gov. Jerry Brown in California signed a bill in 2017 that reduced knowingly exposing someone to HIV to a misdemeanor, and the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition introduced HB167 in the state where Johnson was convicted to modernize the state’s HIV laws.
The bill would have reduced punishment for knowingly transmitting HIV from a felony to a misdemeanor and would have taken into account factors such as whether the accused used protection or was taking medication.
The bill didn’t pass, however.
Johnson hopes that his trial did happen in some way to motivate some change. He will now serve three years of parole, and told BuzzFeed News that it’s good he had the support of everyone who wrote his letters, and it helps that people knew why he was fighting the system.