Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Oral sex lands young man in jail for ten years

In the state of Georgia, if Genarlow Wilson, aged 17 at the time, had sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old woman involved in this incident the act would have fallen under the “Romeo and Juliet” exception (i.e., consensual sex between teenagers) and he would have been guilty of a misdemeanor. However, since they engaged in oral sex, he was convicted of aggravated child molestation, sentenced to a mandatory ten years in prison and has become a registered sex offender for life.

The law has been rewritten but is not retroactive. His lawyers have appealed but the prosecution argues the law should be enforced regardless of how unfair it is.

Here is Emil Steiner's take on the story in the Washington Post:
Though America's history is littered with tales of perverted justice, few have captured the national spotlight like that of Genarlow Wilson, the 17-year-old sentenced to ten years in prison because he had consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old. Today, amid intense criticism from human rights groups, the media, even former presidents, a Georgia appeals court is examining whether this promising young man, who has spent the last 27 months behind bars, deserves his freedom. And come Monday, if reason somehow manages a shocking comeback in the Peach state, he could be released, but I'm not holding my breath. Here is the background of the case:

"In 2003, Wilson was a 17-year-old senior at Douglas County High with a 3.2 GPA and football skills that had caught the attention of a several Ivy League schools. He was popular among students and teachers and had been voted Homecoming King. That all changed after a New Year's Eve party during which he received oral sex from a 10th grader. She was 15 and by all accounts the initiator. At the time, Georgia law stipulated that it was "a misdemeanor for teenagers less than three years apart to have sexual intercourse," but a felony for them to have oral sex. Despite the inconsistency in severity of the two laws, Wilson was found guilty of aggravated child molestation, which carried a mandatory decade behind bars. Since then the law has been changed to include oral sex under the misdemeanor category, but the Legislature neglected to make the law retroactive, leaving Wilson stuck in prison."
Ten years for a consensual blow job between teenagers. What will the Georgia legislature dream up next?

Karen Russell has various links for those who want to do something about this outrage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are some other questions to be asked here as well:

1. The District Attorney has discretion here. Why were charges brought? If you feel he deserves some time, why not a plea agreement that does not label a kid as a sex offender for the rest of his life?

2. This case was the specific impetus for the change in legislation. Why didn't the legislators make this retroactive?

3. What is the net effect of mandatory minimums? Why do attorneys from the country's best law programs work 15 to 20 years as high achievers garnering a lifetime of experience, only to have the decision making aspect of being a judge taken out of their hands?????????