Michael Johnson, popularly known as “Tiger Mandingo” was convicted and sentenced to prison in Boonsville, Missouri, for “recklessly” transmitting HIV to two men and exposing four others to the virus reports BuzzFeed News. He was released 25 years early after his trial was deemed “fundamentally unfair” by an appeals court. 
Johnson was arrested in October of 2013 for failing to disclose his HIV status. Four of the six men exposed were white. Thereby, the trial was believed to be racially charged. 

The one-time college wrestler was never accused of killing anyone, yet he was sentenced to 30.5 years in prison. He was convicted, despite the fact that there was no genetic fingerprinting that could connect him to the other men’s HIV strains. His sentence was reduced, and he was granted parole in April of 2018, as previously reported by Blavity

Unfortunately, race plays an important role in who contracts HIV and who is criminalized for its transmission. According to HIV.org, African Americans make up 43% of the population living with HIV in the United States, despite making up 12% of the national population. 

Johnson’s conviction facilitates a larger discussion about legislation that criminalizes HIV transmission. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “More than half of US jurisdictions have laws criminalizing knowing exposure to or transmission of HIV, yet little evidence supports these laws’ effectiveness in reducing HIV incidence.” 

Grassroots organizations in Missouri, such as the Missouri HIV Justice Coalition, have been working to improve Missouri state law. 

“Maybe my trial did happen in some way to motivate some change.”