September 7, 2018

After Hook-Up and Friendship, Arkansas Men Pitted Against Each Other in HIV Criminalization Trial

The early interactions between Sanjay Johnson and Jamal “Doe” (a pseudonym) might sound familiar to many gay men across the United States. In separate interviews with TheBody, the Little Rock residents described how they exchanged messages on the hook-up app Jack’d in October 2015, then met at Johnson’s apartment for a one-night stand.

“He messaged me and was like, ‘Hey, what’s up, do you want to come over?'” said Doe, 21, who was an 18-year-old freshman studying sociology at the University of Central Arkansas in 2015. “After we had sex, we talked for a few moments, and then I left.”

Johnson was 22 years old at the time of the encounter and has similar memories. “There was no trying to vibe or anything, we just got to it. Once we were done, he left and that was it.”

The young men didn’t maintain contact after that night, but they reconnected about a year and a half later, at which time they learned each other’s names and a friendship developed.

“We started hanging out, not trying to pursue a relationship, not anything sexual, just genuinely hanging out,” Johnson, now 25, said. “We went out to a couple of movies together, maybe ate out once or twice, and he hung out over my house.”

Doe fondly recalled his growing bond with Johnson. “Sanjay was someone I considered a friend because we spent so much time together,” he said.

However, the next interaction between the two men is expected to be in a Pulaski County courtroom in early October, when Doe is scheduled to testify on behalf of the state of Arkansas as it attempts to send Johnson to jail for up to 30 years, a sentence equivalent to that for negligent homicide.

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