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Conviction overturned for former college student accused of spreading HIV  

Michael Johnson aka Tiger Mandingo (Image Source: Instagram/@ tigermandingo)

Michael Johnson aka Tiger Mandingo (Image Source: Instagram/@ tigermandingo)

In 2013, a college wrestler named Michael Johnson became what has been called by some the scapegoat of HIV infection. Johnson was a student at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri and was quite popular on campus and in the majority White town.

Friends knew him by the nickname Tiger Mandingo, a name he used when performing at drag shows, on social media accounts, and on a gay dating website. Johnson, a member of the wrestling team, was a strong, athletically built Black man with a large penis and was sought after by White men for unprotected sex known as “barebacking.”  But according to his partners, Johnson withheld the fact that he is HIV-positive when he engaged in oral and anal sex with his partners. One partner identified in court documents as “DTL” stated that Johnson told him he was clean. It was a month after having sex with Johnson that he became ill and was later found out to have contracted gonorrhea and HIV.  He informed police that Johnson deliberately infected him with the diseases, which led to his arrest some four months later. Fellow students saw Johnson marched out of class in handcuffs by police and later charged with “recklessly” infecting a person with HIV and exposing or attempting to expose four others to the virus.

Michael Johnson aka Tiger Mandingo was popular with White gay men (Image Source: Instagram/@ tigermandingo)

Michael Johnson aka Tiger Mandingo was popular with White gay men (Image Source: Instagram/@ tigermandingo)

His trial was called racially tinged and pictures of his penis were displayed during court proceedings to paint him as a dangerous Black sex fiend who had sex with at least 30 mostly white men to the jury. Even his defense attorney at the time told potential jurors that Johnson was guilty until proven innocent. His sex partners admitted that they also did not use protection when having sex, but the total responsibility for the HIV infection rested on Johnson.

Johnson was ultimately found guilty and received a sentence of 30 years, the harshest ever given to any person for such a crime. New information has now been uncovered which may lead to a new trial and possible freedom for Johnson. It turns out that prosecutors withheld 24 hours of recorded phone conversations that Johnson had in which he stated that he thinks he told his partners of his status. The tapes were a vital part of his defense but prosecutors did not turn this evidence over until the morning of his trial even though it should have been received over a year earlier.

After sentencing, his lawyers filed an appeal on two grounds: his trial was unfair because those recordings had been effectively withheld from the defense until the morning the trial began, and that his long sentence was so disproportionate to the crime that it violated the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

In December 2016, the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District ruled that Johnson deserved a new trial because prosecutors deliberately withheld evidence from Johnson’s attorneys “to gain a strategic advantage” and further calling it “a trial-by-ambush strategy.”

The Missouri Supreme Court refused to overturn the lower court’s decision. Now Johnson will likely get a new trial.


6 Comments

  1. Mason Youngblood on April 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Not excusing anyone here but..you have one gay black man with a known statis of HIV..then you have 30 gay white men who willingly had unprotected sex with this black man (and who knows how many others)..also if this was their ‘usual’ behavior then whose to say if some if not all 30 white men already contracted HIV long before the black guy and was not concerned about their status until someone got sick. We’re talking about a 30 gay to 1 gay spread here…let’s be real..the odds are not in the favor of the 1 black guy spreading this $#!+.

  2. SrAgri on April 6, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    Wait, the perpetrator thinks that maybe he did tell his victims that he had HIV so he is going to be let out?

    I don’t care how depraved or reckless these guys were. If he had told them he was HIV positive, I sincerely doubt that any of them would have been involved with him unless they were already HIV positive. This guy was knowingly spreading a deadly disease.

    • Guest on April 7, 2017 at 7:28 am

      It sounds like all involved were depraved and reckless but you choose to believe the 30 men that allegedly were infected by this man? HIV doesn’t have the stigma of being a death sentence that it use to, so it is likely they were told by him or at least heard about his status in a small college community of gay men and chose to take the risk because they were reckless as you stated. That seems a lot more likely than one man being responsible for 30 people being infected and having no clue of his status. Either way I’m not sure how they came to the conclusion that he alone was responsible and should be sentenced to 30 years unless he confessed to intentionally infecting people.

  3. Skyline Titans on April 6, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    How did they determine this guy was responsible for infecting anyone? Did they go into each sex partners medical history to see if they had any previously known STD’s or were HIV positive? If they were not infected, did they then match the date of this guys encounter with these 30 white males or the guy who contracted it, to conclude he was solely responsible? Also, how long does HIV remain dornant or active in the system until one begins to have noticeable physical heath issues.

    It is not logical that 30 white males somehow chose this guy as the only “special”one to have unprotected sex with. A guy they met from a gay website and did not know. Did they ask these 30 men how many other people from the site or just in general they had unprotected sex with? One would think that these questions would be relevant in trying to determine someone’s guilt or innocence?

  4. nosey rosy on April 9, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    there are way more downlow black men than you care to know about , anyone spending more than 3 years in the pen do not date them , i heard that the penitentary no longer separate HIV positive males from population and they are sleeping together like its a co ed prison . black men are over looked because most pretend to be straight and no one questions that , and only time the come out is when they are among gay white males. its frightening .. that is how hiv is spreaded .. and one female can spread it if she is sleeping around with several men off date sites . . date sites are carriers of hiv

    • SrAgri on April 20, 2017 at 10:47 am

      I agree strongly with your statement. It is scientific fat that homosexual and bisexual men spread HIV worse than heterosexuals. This may not be a politically correct fact, but it is a fact.

      I also like your final statement, though I would say most “dating sites” are more “hookup sites”, anymore.