ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) -A jury is recommending at least 30 years in prison for a man convicted of infecting another man with HIV and endangering four others with the disease while attending college in Missouri.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the St. Charles County jury on Friday recommended a 30-year prison term on the most serious charge against 23-year-old Michael Johnson.
Jurors convicted the former Lindenwood University student and wrestler on Thursday of one count of recklessly infecting another with HIV and four counts of recklessly risking infection of another with HIV.
Johnson's convictions on lesser counts could bring the potential prison term to more than 60 years, if the sentences are ordered to be served one after the other.
Johnson, a college wrestler, was expelled from the university in St. Charles and has been jailed since his arrest in 2013. Prosecutors argued that Johnson knew he was HIV positive but lied to his sexual partners.
Johnson's case has drawn the attention of gay rights activists and some legal reform groups. They argue that laws in Missouri and dozens of other states criminalize a medical condition and deter those at risk of infection from seeking medical treatment.
During Friday's sentencing phase of the trial, St. Charles police Detective Don Stepp testified that after media accounts of Johnson's 2013 arrest, he was contacted by about a dozen other men who said they had sex with Johnson. But Stepp said they did not want to file a formal complaint, with some saying they hadn't told their families they were gay and one man saying he did not want to upset his wife.
Stepp said one of 32 videos on Johnson's computer depicting sex with unknown partners showed Johnson engaged in unprotected sex the same day he got his HIV test at Lindenwood's health clinic.
"The six men you heard testify were only the tip of the iceberg," said Phil Groenweghe, an assistant prosecutor.
Testifying on behalf of Johnson, Meredith Mills said Johnson was her stepson's friend in high school and that Johnson was especially helpful with her autistic daughter. Mills described Johnson as someone who always focused on the positives of life and never said or did anything mean.