Genarlow Wilson, Inmate #1187055

by Walter Olson on February 8, 2007

“Genarlow Wilson, honor student and football star, had consensual sex with a fellow teenager. What happened to him next was a crime.” Once the target of recruiting efforts by Ivy League coaches, the Douglasville, Ga. native is now twenty years old and Inmate No. 1187055 at Burruss Correctional Training Center, an hour and a half south of Atlanta. His crime? Sex with a 15-year-old girl, when he was 17. “Everyone, including the girl and the prosecution, agreed she initiated the act.” The operation of Georgia law was what you might call Draconian: “Just two years into a 10-year sentence without possibility of parole, he peers through the thick glass and bars, trying to catch a glimpse of freedom. Outside, guard towers and rolls of coiled barbed wire remind him of who he is.” (Wright Thompson, “Outrageous Injustice”, ESPN E-Ticket magazine, no date posted; Wilson appeal website; Chandra R. Thomas, “Why Is Genarlow Wilson in Prison?”, Atlanta magazine, no date posted; Sherry F. Colb, “The Harsh Wages of Sin: Why Genarlow Wilson is Languishing in Prison”, FindLaw, Jan. 10; Doug Berman, Jan. 24).

More: Georgia lawmaker has introduced bill that would allow for more lenient resentencing in Wilson case ((Alyson M. Palmer, “Ga. Bill Takes Aim at Sentencing That Resulted in 10-Year Term for Teen Sex”, Fulton County Daily Report, Jan. 29).

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1 nevins 02.08.07 at 12:40 am

The sob story quote leads off describing the sexual contact as ‘consensual’, yet since the girl involved was not of age to give consent, then then it was indeed not consensual. The common usage of the term consent (just a couple of kids who agree to fool around in the back seat) does not mean the same as the legal meaning. If the state deems the 15 year old as incapable of giving consent then the contact was non-consensual even if not forcible or against her juvenile desires. And it is the legal meaning of consent that the legislature wrote the law and the courts applied the law.
His only real out, short of a pardon from the governor is to appeal that the law has been unfairly selectively applied to him because of his race. (this was georgia after all, and if the girl was white then it was most certainly all about race)

2 TC 02.08.07 at 1:59 am

Just another case of what happens when men attempt to enact legislation spurned upon them by some of shrill voice and junk science behind them.

Basically another result of the extreme feminist agenda.

Too few words so it’s rather general, probably too general for this board.

3 Pat W 02.08.07 at 7:37 am

From one of the articles: “And though the Georgia legislature subsequently passed a “Romeo and Juliet Law” limiting sentences in cases like Wilson’s to one year of incarceration, this law was not written to apply retroactively.”

This action by the legislature proves that the INTENT of the legislature in making the law this guy was convicted under was perverted by the prosecutor. My question now becomes: Why hasn’t the governor stepped in to commute his sentence?

4 E-Bell 02.08.07 at 8:38 am

Nevins, I read somewhere that the girl was also black. I think we’d see a much greater hue and cry if the girl was white.

I think this is a prime example of the law of unintended consequences. The legislature enacted a statute designed to protect one class (teenage girls), and in the process has victimized another (teenage boys).

In response to Wilson’s case, the legislature has now corrected its error, allowing a maximum punishment of 12 months incarceration for kids like Wilson.

Unfortunately, absent executive clemency, I think Wilson is still stuck behind bars.

The prosecutor in this case abandoned his duty to do justice. Sure, Wilson had the opportunity to cop a plea like his co-defendants did. But the consensual nature of the acts complained of (including the supposed rape of the other girl) leads me to believe that this case shouldn’t have been prosecuted at all.

5 OBQuiet 02.08.07 at 8:51 am

Pat,

I imagine the reason the Gov has stayed out of it is the the headlines the next day would be “Gov Pardons Child Molester”. It might be the right thing to do but the press could make it look bad.

6 Paul 02.08.07 at 9:27 am

My understanding of the case is that the major crime had less to do with her age and more to do with sodomy. A news report I watched said if the incident had been intercourse, it would have been a misdemeanor, but since it was oral sex, the felony carried a mandatory 10 years.

7 Deoxy 02.08.07 at 11:05 am

Paul is correct about the charges (another point to this that’s just silly).

But the really ridiculous part is that the only legal way to protect yourself is to stop her and ask her for ID (and have some way of verifying it – a fake ID is no defense, even if it’s good enough to fool a polic officer).

While I understand the point of statutory rap laws (and the intention is nothing but good), their execution is… poor.

8 asg 02.08.07 at 11:34 am

If everyone agrees the girl initiated the act, yet Wilson was also a minor, why isn’t the girl in jail too?

9 Colin P. Varga 02.08.07 at 1:22 pm

For Wilson checking ID would not have been as important as knowing that the law that convicted him would apply to him. Even if he had checked this girl’s ID he would have still believed that since he was also a minor he could not be convicted of Child Molestation. Obviously the answer is to educate all minors regarding state laws regarding sexual practices. I believe that Virginia’s sodomy law bans oral sex for married adults.

10 jb 02.09.07 at 12:34 am

Why wasn’t the bill made retroactive? That seems like a strange oversight.

11 markm 02.09.07 at 11:59 am

jb: I may be misinformed, but I’ve heard that the Georgia constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto legislation has been interpreted to prohibit even an ex post facto sentence reduction.

12 Ted 02.09.07 at 11:29 pm

1) My understanding is that governor of Georgia doesn’t have the power to pardon unilaterally. It has to go through a bureaucracy first.

2) Leaving aside the factual issue of consent (which I understand to be more ambiguous than indicated in the post, though the jury acquitted on the charge of forced sexual contact), the ten-year sentence was imposed because the sex was oral; had Mr. Wilson simply impregnated the teen, the sentence would not have been so long.

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