Ten Years for Consensual Oral Sex for high school student

Think about this “Ten years, ten years in prison for receiving Oral Sex. That was Genarlow Wilson’s sentence. A Georgia law designed to go after child sex predators has sparked a flood of support for a former honor student serving 10 years in jail.

Picture of Genarlow WilsonWhen Wilson was a high school senior, he was 17 years old and he received consensual oral sex from a 15 year old, 10th grade girl. Everyone agreed, including the prosecutor and the girl herself, that she initiated the act.

It was all captured on video — the evidence used to convict him at trial. On the tape, police saw a 15-year-old perform oral sex on one partygoer, and after finishing with him, she turned and did the same to Wilson. Under Georgia law at the time, this was considered aggravated child molestation, a felony for teens less than three years apart to have oral sex. It carried with it a 10-year sentence, even though it was only a misdemeanor for those same teens to have sexual intercourse.

The D.A. offered Wilson — a football standout who was being recruited by some of nation’s top colleges, including Columbia and Brown — a plea deal: five years in prison and register as a sex offender. He turned it down.

The other students at the party took that deal and some of them are out of prison by now. Because Wilson thought he would be acquitted and did not want to be branded a child molester, he went to trial. The prosecutor blames Wilson for his sentence because none of the other defendants insisted on a trial; all the others “took their medicine.”

Wilson knew the risks, rolled the dice by going to trial and lost. This happened 2 years ago.
After Wilson’s conviction and sentence, the legislature changed the statute realizing it was unfair. It now makes consensual oral sex between teens a misdemeanor. Too little, too late for Wilson, as the law does not apply retroactively. The legislature could change the law again, and there is presently a bipartisan bill that has been introduced to do just that.

Wilson’s attorney, B.J. Bernstein, a former prosecutor herself, is anxiously working with legislators to change the law to apply to Wilson.

The only other hope for Wilson, now 20, is for the prosecutor to set aside the sentence, and while the prosecutor didn’t return my phone calls, he told ESPN , that “legally, it’s still possible for us to set aside his sentence and give him a new sentence to a lesser charge. But it’s up to us. He has no control over it.” The reason they haven’t, according to ESPN, is they believe Wilson is guilty under the law and there is no room for mercy.

Is the prosecutor punishing Wilson for exercising his right to a trial?

My hope is that the law applies to Wilson in the same way it applies to other consenting teens. If the legislature changed the law to spare other teens a harsh injustice, it should apply retroactively to Wilson.

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