Was it a “deadly sin”, a crime or just one night of stupidity? That’s the issue courts in Georgia are grappling with in the case of Genarlow Wilson, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence in this state for having consensual oral sex with a girl when they were both teens and minors.
According to an Associated Press news report a New York-based investment manager and 10 other business leaders have offered to post a $1 million bond to free Wilson, but prosecutors say the incarcerated man is not eligible for that bond.
This is the latest event in Wilson’s continuing battle to get out of his prison sentence. Critics of Georgia’s justice system include former President Jimmy Carter and numerous other lawmakers who say they are outraged at this harsh sentence, which has its basis in the so-called “seven deadly sins” under Georgia law. Anyone convicted of one of the seven deadly sins gets a mandatory 10-year prison sentence for a first time offense and is sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted of such an offense the second time. In 2006, state lawmakers changed the deadly sins law, but judges maintain that it cannot be applied retroactively.
In Wilson’s case a Monroe County Superior Court judge ordered his release calling his sentence “a grave miscarriage of justice,” but the appellate court overturned the trial court decision saying that Wilson is not eligible for bond because he was convicted under the seven deadly sins law. Wilson, now 21, was convicted of aggravated child molestation after a 2003 New Year’s Eve party where he was caught on videotape receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl. Wilson himself was 17 years old at that time. He was also charged with raping another 17-year-old girl at the same party, but was acquitted on that charge.
We agree with the trial court’s opinion that Wilson should be freed. This was the reckless act of a teenager performing a sexual act with the consent of his then-partner. For such a person to be grouped in the same category as violent sex offenders is ridiculous and should amount to a “grave miscarriage of justice” as the trial court judge put it. We certainly hope community leaders keep up the fight and help free a young man who shouldn’t be serving this sentence.