More Mandatory Minimums Madness: The â€œSexual Predatorâ€ Edition, Part IIby Stephen Littau
Back in January, I wrote a post about the injustice that befell seventeen year old Genarlow Wilson who was sentenced to ten years in prison for engaging in oral sex with a fifteen year old girl (just a few months shy of sixteen) at a New Yearâ€™s party. Wilson was charged with aggravated child molesting. Wilson is now twenty-one and has served his first two years of his ten year sentence.
Today, Judge Thomas H. Wilson (no relation to Genarlow Wilson) ordered the release of Genarlow Wilson stating in his ruling: “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.”
Even though the Georgia legislature failed to make the law retroactive, Judge Wilson downgraded the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor because the legislatureâ€™s intent was to clarify what the state determined to be child molesting. The reason the legislature passed the bill was in direct response to the Genarlow Wilson case.
Despite pleas from Wilsonâ€™s lawyer to the Georgia Attorney General to not file an appeal, the Attorney General made the decision less than two hours after Judge Wilsonâ€™s ruling to file an appeal, effectively placing the judgeâ€™s ruling on hold and keeping Wilson in prison until his case can be heard by a higher court.
This begs the question: what possible purpose is being served by Genarlow Wilson spending ten years in prison for what most people agree is minor offense? Is it really fair to characterize a seventeen year old having sexual contact with someone less than two years younger than him as a child molester? Is this young man truly a threat to children if he is released back into society? Judge Wilson had it right: two years for this offense is enough. Hopefully, the next judge who hears this case will also be as reasonable.