Former college wrestler Michael Johnson just received a huge break in his court case.
According to reports, a Missouri appeals court ordered a new trial on Tuesday for the wrestler who was sentenced to 30 years in prison back in 2013 for infecting a man with HIV and endangering four other sexual partners. The court ruled that his original trial was tainted by the inclusion of jailhouse phone calls Johnson made.
The St. Charles County trial court was accused last year of abusing its discretion by admitting excerpted recordings of phone calls Johnson made while jailed. Those recordings weren’t disclosed to Johnson’s attorneys until the morning of the first day of trial.
Johnson, who used the stage name “Tiger Mandingo,” reportedly failed to disclose he was HIV-positive to six other guys when they had sex, which is a Class B Felony under Missouri law. The 25-year-old has had a lot of support throughout the case, including legal reform groups and LGBT activists.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri claim that the fact that Johnson was black and gay were factors in his conviction. They said the violation of Johnson’s right to a fair trial was “just the beginning” of trouble with the case. Johnson’s attorneys argued that his sex partners had a responsibility for their own sexual health, and that HIV is not the death sentence it was when Missouri’s mandatory disclosure laws were enacted in the 1990s.
The court ruled that the prosecution’s violation with the recordings was “knowing and intentional” and was part of a trial-by-ambush strategy .