Teen Jailed for Consensual Sex Released after Two Years
By: Gerri L. Elder
In a move that many say is finally justice, the Georgia Supreme Court voted to overturn the 10 year prison sentence of Genarlow Wilson and he was freed from jail.
Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having what was deemed as consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl at an Atlanta-area 2003 teen New Years Eve party where drugs and alcohol were present. He was 17 at the time of the incident.
Initially, Wilson was also accused of raping another girl at the party because prosecutors said that she was too intoxicated to consent to the sex. With help from his criminal defense team, he was acquitted of the rape charge.
The teen sex at the party had been videotaped and prosecutors insisted that it constituted the crime of aggravated child molestation, a crime that carried a mandatory 10 years behind bars. Wilson was convicted of the sex crime in 2005.
After Wilson was convicted and sentenced to the mandatory ten years in prison, the law in Georgia was changed to make consensual sex between similar aged teens a lesser misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to one year in prison and no sex offender registration. However, the change in law that Wilson’s case spurred did not help him because it was not retroactive.
Wilson spent two years in prison before the Georgia Supreme Court decided in a 4-3 ruling that his crime did not rise to the level of those who prey on children and constituted cruel and unusual punishment. The court overturned the ten year prison sentence and called it “grossly disproportionate to the crime.” Douglas County District Attorney David McDade and the state Attorney General say they do not plan to appeal the decision that has finally made Genarlow Wilson a free man.
Previously in the case, a Monroe County Superior Court judge had ruled that Wilson’s punishment was “cruel and unusual” and ordered it to be voided on constitutional grounds. The judge reduced Wilson’s sentence to one year in prison and said that he should not be put on Georgia’s sex offender registry. Many people, including Wilson’s criminal defense lawyers were overjoyed and expected that Wilson would be freed at that point, however, he was not.
Following the Superior Court judge’s decision, Georgia’s Attorney General moved to appeal the decision and that move kept Wilson behind bars.
While in prison, Wilson had been offered a plea deal that would have set him free. He rejected the plea offer because it would have required him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Besides receiving a label that he felt was highly inappropriate, Wilson says that the plea deal would have made him homeless.
Wilson lives with his mother and his 9 year old sister. If he had accepted the plea deal and had to register as a sex offender he would not have been allowed to live in the home with his younger sister.
Before his conviction, Wilson was an honor roll student, a football star and his school’s homecoming king. Now he will work to move forward with his life. He plans to attend college and pursue a degree in sociology.