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Georgia Man's Deliverance From Prison: a Sign of Southern ProgressSalem-News.com
Genarlow Wilson was convicted of breaking a law by having oral sex as a teen.
(ATLANTA, Ga.) - In 2003, 17-year old Genarlow Wilson was at a party with friends, when he had consensual oral sex with a 15-year old girl, for which he was given a 10-year mandatory prison sentence.
The Georgia man, now 21-years old, has become a symbol for extreme cases of getting tough on sex offenders. This week, after 28 months behind bars, he was ordered released from prison by a judge who called his 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex as a teen "a grave miscarriage of justice."
Genarlow Wilson's case has gained national attention, with critics maintaining that his sentence was far too harsh, especially since the law he broke has since been changed.
Supporters like former President Jimmy Carter have said it raises questions about race and the criminal justice system.
Wilson, and five other male partygoers charged in the cases were black, as were the two teenage girls involved.
The State is appealing Wilson’s release. They say his release could lead to similar legal challenges. Georgia prisons currently hold 189 inmates who were sentenced for aggravated child molestation when they were 21 or younger, the same charge Wilson was convicted of.
In his notice of appeal, Attorney General Thurbert Baker argued that Georgia law does not give a judge authority to reduce or modify the sentence imposed by the trial court. He said he would seek an expedited ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court.
If Wilson’s conviction is upheld, he will remain in prison, and also be mandated to be placed on Georgia's sex offender registry. In 2003, the "Romeo and Juliet" exception in Georgia law also would have allowed him to avoid the sex offender registry. Lawmakers last year voted to close that loophole. But the state's top court said the new law could not be applied retroactively to Wilson's case.
Baker said that a plea deal is on the table that would release Wilson from prison in a maximum of five years and also remove him from the sex offender registry.
Since the sentence has been thrown out by a judge, Bernstein said her office was seeking bond for Wilson that would allow him to leave prison while his appeal was pending. He had been behind bars for more than 28 months.
The judge's ruling Monday amended Wilson’s sentence to misdemeanor aggravated child molestation with a 12-month term, plus credit for time served.
He would not be required to register as a sex offender.
A jury in 2005 found Wilson guilty of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl during a 2003 New Year's Eve party involving alcohol and marijuana.
Although the sex act was consensual, it was illegal under Georgia law.
At the time of his crime, Wilson would have faced just one year in prison if he had sexual intercourse with the girl.
Wilson was also charged with rape for being one of several male partygoers at the Douglas County hotel to have sex with another 17-year old girl, but was acquitted. The party was captured on a videotape that was played for the jury.
The five other male partygoers took plea deals in the case. One has been released from prison and is now in college.
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