GOP Georgia legislators v. Genarlow Wilsonby Jason Pye
The Genarlow Wilson case has been the talk of the blogosphere here in Georgia this week. Wilson is currently serving a ten prison sentence for participating in an oral sex act with a 15 year old, which is a felony. Wilson was 17 at the time of the act. Had Wilson had intercourse, it would have only been a misdemeanor. Wilson’s case caused the legislature to close the loophole on oral sex. However, Wilson still sits in prison.
Maureen Downey, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has written a great editorial on Wilson and his case:
At the time of the 2003 New Year’s Eve bash at a local hotel, Wilson, now 20, was a promising athlete who had caught the eye of football coaches from several colleges. The unchaperoned party included drugs, alcohol and a video camera.
For the most part, the wandering camera documents a gaggle of teenage boys drifting around a faceless hotel room listening to music and smirking at the camera with the loopy smiles and bleary eyes that signal drinking and drugs. But the camera also captures some sordid sex acts, including desultory and perfunctory oral sex between some of the boys and a younger high school classmate.
More troubling to police and prosecutors, however, was another sex act recorded on the tape: Wilson having sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old classmate.
Early in the morning, the young woman woke up in the hotel room naked, woozy and upset, and called her mother to take her home. Once at home, she told her mother that she may have been raped at the party. They went to police, who rushed to the hotel and found a few stray partygoers and the video camera that documented the evening’s debaucheries. (Wilson had left the hotel shortly after midnight to make a curfew set by his mother.)
The camera shows the 17-year-old on her stomach on a bed while Wilson has sex with her. She appears awake but dazed. She props herself up with her hand during the sex act. Later, she is helped to her feet off the bed.
The raw scenes outraged Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, who believed the evidence supported a rape charge against Wilson. But he also charged Wilson with aggravated child molestation for the oral sex. McDade knew the charge carried a mandatory 10-year sentence but says he had no choice under the law, a rationale that has met with sharp rebuttal by legal experts.
“First, we should be quite disturbed to learn that a prosecutor, who has more discretion in carrying out his job than almost anyone else in the criminal justice system, is prepared to rely on the Nuremberg defense,” wrote Rutgers School of Law professor Sherry F. Colb in a review of the case. “Yes, a criminal statute literally applied to Wilson’s conduct, but the district attorney has no obligation to enforce the law slavishly.”
State Senator Eric Johnson contends that there was a compromise on rape charge, but according to Marie Manigault, one of the jurors, that is simply not the case:
“That decision was cut and dry,” says Manigault, adding that she and the other jurors watched the tape as many as 10 times during the trial and deliberations to gauge whether the 17-year-old girl was able to consent to the sex. “The girl may have been on something but she was coherent enough in the video to respond directly and correctly to a question she was asked,” says Manigault.
But some key lawmakers have adopted McDade’s stance, including Senate leader Eric Johnson who said he believes the jury compromised when it found Wilson guilty of sex with the minor, an offense for which he says they otherwise could have let him off.
Not so, says Manigault. She and other jurors were never told that they could have acquitted Wilson on the charge of sex with a minor, she says. Because of the jury instructions and statements by the judge, she says they felt compelled to follow the letter of the law, which made any consensual oral sex between the two teens a crime.
“I am so disappointed in our justice system when you have male and female adults charged and given a smack on the back of their hands and this young guy commits teen-on-teen sex and gets 10 years,” Manigault says.
Senator Johnson is quoted in the article as saying, “If I was the parent of one of the girls in that hotel room, I would want those boys put away for 10 years, if not executed…We’ve turned the victim around from the minor child to the person in prison.”
The minor child, the 15 year old, consented to oral sex act (though the age of consent is 16). The only thing that could possible make her the victim is her age. Wilson is the victim of a law that the Georgia General Assembly went back and closed the loophole on.
Wilson made a mistake. There is no denying that. But he for all intents and purposes was a good kid before this. In the words of Carol Hunstein, not a favorite of Republicans here in Georgia, “[I am] very sympathetic to Wilson’s argument regarding the injustice of sentencing this promising young man with good grades and no criminal history to 10 years in prison without parole and a lifetime registration as a sexual offender because he engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old victim only two years his junior.”
Some like Senator Johnson, who took it upon himself to beat the hell out of Wilson this week over at Peach Pundit, believe that Wilson is martyring himself for refusing to take a plea bargin. If the state hadn’t changed the law, I could understand that argument. But that is the point…the state changed the law.
There are two things at work here…one is that these Georgia legislators are in a desperate attempt to appear “tough on sexual predators.” I’m sorry, I simply don’t believe that Wilson is a sexual predator. The jury acquitted him of rape and said the sex was consensual after watching the video many times over. As far as the oral sex, he had consent, though again she was a minor, but the consent is something that no one disagrees on.
But it appears that some Senators are going to strange lengths to give this appearance.
The second thing is the sponsor of the legislation to set Wilson free, State Senator Emanuel Jones (D-10). Jones is not taken very seriously at the capitol, especially after appearing at the well of the Senate in shackles during the debate over the Voter ID legislation last year.
I’m sure that the AJC editorial and the proof in it will be written off by Republican legislators as more ramblings from the liberal media…maybe…just maybe, they are right for once.
Let the kid go free. He has served enough time.