Michael L. Johnson, a former student-athlete who was found guilty and was serving time for infecting a sexual partner with HIV, among other crimes, has had his conviction overturned by a panel of appeals court judges, the Washington Post reports.
Johnson, who was a wrestler at Lindenwood University near St. Louis, was arrested in 2013 and had been serving a 30-year sentence.
In the opinion, released Tuesday, the judges decided that the prosecution made Johnson's trial unfair, saying that it used cellphone recordings that "were not disclosed to the defense until the morning of the first day of the trial."
According to the Post, Johnson was diagnosed with HIV in January 2013 and had unprotected sex with a fellow student a few weeks later, transmitting the virus.
The jury had convicted him of three crimes: one count of recklessly infecting a sexual partner with HIV, one count of recklessly exposing a partner to HIV and three counts of attempting to recklessly infect a partner with HIV.
"The sex itself was not the crime. Consensual sex among adult individuals, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or one’s status as a carrier of a communicable disease, is not a crime," said Tim Lohmar, a prosecutor. “What is a crime is when one partner fails to disclose his HIV status to a sexual partner."
The panel remanded the case for a new trial after overturning Johnson’s conviction.
Johnson's attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, was thrilled with the court decision, saying, “Statutes like the one used to prosecute Mr. Johnson are inherently problematic, as they promote stigma and animus towards people living with HIV in violation of their legal and constitutional rights," the Post notes.
Read more at the Washington Post.