Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Trial Begins for Former Lindenwood Student Accused of Infecting Partners with HIV

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Trial Begins for Former Lindenwood Student Accused of Infecting Partners with HIV

Article excerpt

ST. CHARLES * A former college wrestler accused of exposing multiple sex partners to HIV was described in court Tuesday as a liar whose reckless behavior had life-altering consequences for six young men.

Michael L. Johnson, 23, is charged with six felony counts related to his unprotected sexual encounters. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. Two of the people he had unprotected sex with have since been diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

During opening statements at Johnson's trial on Tuesday, Assistant Prosecutor Phil Groenweghe told jurors that Johnson, a former student at Lindenwood University, was diagnosed with HIV at the college's health clinic on Jan. 6, 2013.

A nurse practitioner at the clinic and a counselor with the Missouri Department of Health both told Johnson that he needed to practice safe sex and was required by law to tell his partners that he had HIV, Groenweghe said. Johnson told them he hadn't had sex with anyone, Groenweghe said.

Health officials learned later that Johnson had been diagnosed previously with HIV, in December 2011 in Indiana, his home state.

The health officials told Johnson that not disclosing his status to his partners was a criminal offense in Missouri.

They also told him unprotected anal sex was the most dangerous activity, yet three weeks later, Johnson engaged in that activity without a condom, Groenweghe said.

That victim along with several others asked Johnson before the encounters if "he was clean," and Johnson allegedly told them he was.

"This is a crime of withholding information," Groenweghe said. "It was a deliberate act for which two people paid a very high price."

Johnson's attorney, public defender Heather Donovan, did not make an opening statement.

Nurse Kelly Martin testified that Johnson came to the college health clinic in January 2013 and tested positive not only for HIV but for gonorrhea.

She said in the next three months, Johnson tested positive for gonorrhea two other times and chlamydia once.

"I was concerned he was possibly spreading HIV and other diseases," she said. "He told me he wasn't sexually active. …

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