Magazine article The Crisis

Former Athlete Remains Jailed under Outdated Georgia Sex Law

Magazine article The Crisis

Former Athlete Remains Jailed under Outdated Georgia Sex Law

Article excerpt

While his peers were awaiting college acceptance letters, Genarlow Wilson, once a promising athlete with a 3.2 grade point average, waited to be released from prison.

It was 2003 when Wilson, then 17, attended a New Year's Eve party with friends at a hotel in Douglas County. There was drinking, drugs and girls; two to be exact. Wilson was recorded on videotape having sex with the 17-year-old girl who would later accuse him of rape. And he received oral sex from a 15-year-old who said the act was consensual.

According to news reports, Wilson and five others who attended the party were arrested. His friends, who all had criminal records, pleaded guilty to the lesser felonies of child molestation of the 15year-old and sexual battery of the 17-year-old. They were given five- to seven-year sentences with a chance of parole and had to register as sex offenders. Wilson, who had no record and did not want to be labeled as a sex offender for life, chose to go to trial.

In February 2005, Wilson was acquitted of rape, but found guilty of aggravated child molestation. At the time, Georgia sex offender laws considered a 17-year-old an adult, while a 15-year-old was considered a child victim incapable of consent. It also gave more serious penalties to oral sex than sexual intercourse and carried a mandatory 10-year minimum sentence.

"He had no idea this could get him 10 years in prison," says Wilson's attorney B.J. Bernstein. "We never said Genarlow was perfect, the question is, what [punishment] is appropriate for what he was actually convicted of? …

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