Man Jailed For Oral Sex Is Ordered Released

By Shannon McCaffrey
Associated Press
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ATLANTA, June 11 -- A Georgia judge on Monday ordered the release of a man sentenced to 10 years in prison for consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17, a sentence that had been widely criticized as grossly disproportionate to the crime.

State Attorney General Thurbert Baker appealed the ruling, arguing that Georgia law does not give a judge authority to reduce or modify a sentence imposed by a trial court. He said he would seek an expedited ruling from the state's Supreme Court.

Genarlow Wilson, now 21, will not be released from prison until the Department of Corrections receives guidance from the state attorney general's office or from the court that sentenced him, corrections spokeswoman Tracy J. Smith said.

Wilson's case became a cause célèbre, with some supporters, including former president Jimmy Carter, saying that it raised questions about race and the criminal justice system. Wilson and the girl are black.

Georgia lawmakers subsequently voted to close the loophole that led to Wilson's mandatory 10-year term. But the state's top court said the new law could not be applied retroactively.

Judge Thomas H. Wilson threw out the sentence for aggravated child molestation and amended it to misdemeanor aggravated child molestation, with a 12-month sentence and credit for time served. Genarlow Wilson (no relation to the judge) would not be required to register as a sex offender.

"The fact that Genarlow Wilson has spent two years in prison for what is now classified as a misdemeanor, and without assistance from this Court, will spend eight more years in prison, is a grave miscarriage of justice," Judge Wilson wrote.

Genarlow Wilson's attorney, B.J. Bernstein, said she plans to apply for a bond to release him while the appeal is pending.

"It is extremely, extremely disturbing that the attorney general would take this action now," she said. "In essence, the attorney general is saying, 'Keep Genarlow Wilson in prison for 10 years and keep him on the sex-offender registry.' "

Wilson was an honor student and his high school's homecoming king. He had oral sex with the 15-year-old during a 2003 New Year's Eve party that involved alcohol and marijuana. At the time of his crime, Wilson would have faced one year in prison if he had had sexual intercourse with the girl.

Attorney General Baker, who is black, noted that a plea deal is on the table that would release Wilson in a maximum of five years and also remove him from the sex-offender registry. Bernstein called the offer "ridiculous."

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