Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On Genarlow Wilson

This case passed me by when it happened. Even goddesses don't spot every single thing. But I remember reading about it on various feminist blogs and the consensus everywhere was that Wilson had been treated very poorly indeed. The short explanation of the Wilson case is this:

A Georgia Superior Court judge today ordered the release of Genarlow Wilson, who has served two years of 10-year prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with another teenager at a party when he was 17. Prosecutors said they would appeal the order.


The case began three years ago when Mr. Wilson was arrested for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year's Eve party in 2003. Under Georgia law, that offense qualified as aggravated child molestation, a felony charge largely intended for use against adult sexual predators, not teenagers like Mr. Wilson, who was 17 at the time of the incident. He had no prior criminal record and was an honors student and star athlete.

Critics pointed out that if Mr. Wilson had engaged in full sexual intercourse with the girl instead of oral sex, under Georgia law he could have been charged only with a misdemeanor, because of an exemption written into the molestation law specifically to cover contact between minors. But because that exemption did not mention oral sex, when Mr. Wilson was convicted, he received a mandatory sentence of ten years in prison without possibility of parole.

Mr. Wilson was also charged with rape for being one of several people at the party to have sex with a 17-year-old girl, but he was acquitted of those charges.

The 10-year sentence was widely criticized — including by former President Jimmy Carter — as disproportionate, and Ms. Bernstein likened it to "cruel and unusual punishment."

Which it is, of course. Now that Georgia law has been amended, and just because of this case. But the amended law didn't help Genarlow Wilson. Hence the order for his release.

Added later: Scott Lemieux says that Wilson has not been released, after all. And yes, Wilson is most likely not an angel at all. But ten years is too much for what he was found guilty of.