Michael Johnson Released on Parole, Heads Back to Indiana

On Tuesday, July 9, 2018, Michael Johnson, a former college wrestler imprisoned for nearly six years for the alleged failure to disclose his HIV status before sex, left prison to restart his life.
By Catherine Hanssens Founder/Executive Director

On Tuesday, July 9, 2018, Michael Johnson left prison on parole and headed back to Indiana with Meredith Rowan, a long-time friend and supporter. The release date is several months earlier than originally projected when Michael entered a no-contest plea, on September 21, 2017, to bypass a new trial. 

Michael had been arrested and incarcerated in October 2013 based on statements from six former sex partners that he had not disclosed his HIV status. His original conviction and sentence of 30 years was reversed on appeal on December 2016. 

CHLP filed an amicus brief in support of the appeal, on which Missouri attorney Sam Buffaloe, represented Michael. The Missouri Court of Appeals denied the state prosecutor's motion to have the decision reconsidered or reheard, or transferred to the Supreme Court of Missouri. The state prosecutor's application to have the case transferred also was denied by the Missouri Supreme Court.

The Counter Narrative Project in Atlanta, Georgia worked with CHLP to coordinate the significant community support for Michael during his trial and imprisonment.

Because Missouri's HIV criminal law hinges guilt or innocence on whether defendants can prove they disclosed their HIV status prior to sex -- an impossibility in most cases -- Michael decided to accept a plea that gave him time served for the time he was in custody and awaiting trial rather than risk a new trial. 

While Michael's imprisonment is a profound injustice, his successful appeal and grant of parole spares him the remainder of the 30-year sentence the trial court had imposed and the nearly 100 years in prison he potentially faced if he had chosen to pursue a second trial rather than accept a no-contest plea.

For a complete summary of the case timeline and developments prior to Michael's release, see Missouri v. Johnson, A Fact Sheet and Case Timeline.