Friday, April 13, 2018

UPDATE: Michael Johnson a.k.a. "Tiger Mandingo" Has Jail Time Reduced From 30 Year to 6 (Plus Parole)

This blog post provides an update in the ongoing saga of how a 23-year-old Black gay man who was sentenced to 30-years for consensual sex with other men in Missouri because he is HIV-positive and did not inform his partners of that fact. The man is named Michael Johnson (although he described himself online as "Tiger Mandingo") and he became a poster child for the excesses of HIV criminalization. His trial was marred by blatant homophobia, prurient descriptions of Black male sexuality and blunt race-baiting by the prosecution. The good news is that eventually his original draconian 30-year sentence was overturned and last year he agreed to a 10-year sentence instead.

The latest update on the Johnson case is there is news that parole has been granted but that it is going to be delayed for 18 months, so in effect he will end up serving 6 years of his 10 year term since he has been in prison since 2013 and he would be released in 2019.

Steven Thrasher at Buzzfeed reports:
Last month, Johnson appeared before the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole, where his friend, Meredith Rowan, attended as his delegate in the hearing. The board did not immediately respond to an email or phone call for comment, but Rowan said Johnson called her from prison today to tell her that his parole had been granted — with a delay. 
“Michael was excited that it got approved,” Rowan told BuzzFeed News. “I have to look at it that I have a date, and it’s only 18 months away, and it’s still a lot sooner than a 30-year sentence,” Rowan said Johnson told her. If released as planned, Johnson will have served 60% of his 10-year sentence. The date is contingent upon Johnson not accruing any violations.
Johnson’s lawyers, Eric Selig and Jessica Hathaway, confirmed the terms of Johnson’s parole. ”We had some hopes, because of all the support Michael had received and a couple of other factors, that he would get out at an earlier date,” Selig said. 
Johnson will live with Rowan and her family in Indiana when he is released, Rowan said. He will be supervised by parole officers for the duration of his 10-year sentence, until 2023. 
Laws that single out HIV are widespread in the US. At least “67 laws explicitly focused on persons living with HIV had been enacted in 33 states” by 2011, according to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and researchers from the US Department of Justice. In Missouri, where Johnson was convicted, people living with HIV can face life in prison for exposing others to HIV if they have sex without first disclosing that they have the virus.
We at this blog have been following this case from the beginning because it seemed like such an egregious example of abuse in the criminal justice system intersecting with homophobia, race and HIV stigma.

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