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A Calamity of Justice The Genarlow Wilson Case

Article by Douglas Whalen

Is it possible for a 17-year-old to go to jail for a decade for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old? In the state of Georgia-before they modified the law-the answer was yes. Every once in a while a case comes along that shocks the conscious of most good-natured people, this case I assure you is one of them.

Genarlow Wilson was a high school senior and age 17 at the time of his alleged criminal offense. He received a 10-year prison sentence because at age 17 he engaged in a voluntary act of oral sex with a 15-year-old female classmate. No violence or assault was asserted or raised in any of the police reports or at trial as to the 15 year old. His conviction for aggravated child molestation was based solely on the fact that the female was 15, which is below Georgia’s legal age of consent of 16. However, the sex act in lay terms was “consensual” – that is, agreed to by both teens. Genarlow Wilson has already served approximately thirty months in prison for this crime. What shocks the conscious here is that had they engaged in sexual intercourse, Mr. Wilson would have only served a maximum term of 12 months and would not be required to register as a lifetime sex offender. How is this possible you might ask? In Georgia-before they modified the law-When a 17-year-old male has intercourse with a 15-year-old female, statutory rape sets the maximum punishment at 12 months for a misdemeanor conviction with no sex offender registration. When that same 17-year-old male receives oral sex from a 15-year-old female, that teen is supposedly guilty of aggravated child molestation which dictates a mandatory 10 years in prison and lifetime sex offender registry. This, unfortunately for Mr. Wilson and the entire judicial system, is a case of an old outdated Georgia Law being steadfastly upheld by what must be an over zealous Assistant District Attorney, more specifically James E. Barker, who lacks the common prosecutorial discretion of most good district attorneys.

The archaic Georgia law that Mr. Wilson has been convicted of violating has been subsequently re-written. The law now more accurately represents what most states have in terms of the age of sexual consent and child molestation laws. The new law now reads that a person is convicted of the offense of aggravated child molestation when: (A) The victim is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age; (B) The person convicted of aggravated child molestation is 18 years of age or younger and is no more than four years older than the victim. This legislature similarly amended the code sections for child molestation and Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes to grant misdemeanor status without sex offender registration for sexual acts when the victim is at least 14 but less than 16 years of age and the person convicted is 18 years of age or younger and is no more than four years older than the victim. The legislature also amended the statutory rape provision to reflect the same 4-year differential in age between teens to grant misdemeanor status without sex offender registration for acts of intercourse. I presume that the Georgia legislature made the changes in the law in light of this case. What they failed to do, however, was make these laws retroactive. Had they made the laws retroactive, Mr. Wilson would be a free man today. I assume that the Legislature could not stomach the release of what probably amounts to hundreds or maybe even thousands of individuals incarcerated who might qualify under the retroaction.

Either my classification of Mr. Barker is accurate or something else is afoot in this case. In the interest of impartiality, I offer one possible scenario. They only other possible reason that I can think of as to why Mr. Barker is holding steadfast on this conviction is that some other evidence must have been excluded from trial that brings to light the commission of a more serious crime by Mr. Wilson. If the district attorney lacks the evidence to prosecute on that crime he may feel as if the punishment is warranted for what actually took place despite the seemingly harmless nature of two young teenagers engaging in oral sex. I am not sure on this, but it is the only possible scenario that I can think of other than the prosecutor’s total disregard for discretion. If this is the case, the district attorney would still be in the wrong because he would in a sense be circumventing the judicial system by not having Mr. Wilson tried on the merits of the evidence for that more serious crime.

In conclusion, I think this case brings to light some of the troublesome issues that exist in the criminal justice system of America. Once upon a time Genarlow Wilson was a high school football star with a bright future, one consensual blow-job later by a teenager two years younger and now he is a prisoner of the state for what looks to be another seven years on top of the three already served. I don’t know if anyone is going to step up and rectify this injustice. I can only hope that those in the government with the power of pardon will see this as a calamity of justice and work to release Mr. Wilson. Everyday that Mr. Wilson sits in prison is another black mark on the criminal justice system of the United States of America.

This article was written by Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Douglas Whalen, he maintains a current legal news review blog at www.legalnewsreview.com and a family law blog at Philadelphia Divorce Lawyer.

About the Author

Douglas Whalen is an attorney in Philadelphia concentrating on Personal Injury, Family Law and Commercial/Civil Litigation.

July 3, 2007 (07.03.07) Keith Olbermann on MSNBC Countdown comments on George W. Bush communtation of I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby prison sentence for his conviction of Obstruction of Justice
Video Rating: 5 / 5

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