Update in Genarlow Wilson Case

Today Wilson’s supporters were in court petitioning for his release. They report on the Wilson Appeal web site that the judge will issue his ruling on Monday. Watch that space (and this one) for information.

Genarlow Wilson is the young man, now 21 who was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole — and lifelong registration as a sex offender — for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. He has served more than two years of that sentence. Since his conviction of aggravated child molestation the Georgia state laws have been changed to make what he did a misdemeanor rather than a felony, but those laws were not made retroactive and so have not affected the outcome of his case.

The Georgia Assembly has grappled with that omission and, though hard to believe, some have actively argued that the new law should not be applied to Wilson or any others similarly situated. In fact, Georgia Senator Eric Johnson, who believes Wilson’s sentence to be just, continued to trot out the videotape of a rape that occurred at the party where Wilson’s sex act also occured — a rape Wilson was found innocent of having any part in — in such a way as to inflame the moral panic around teens and sex, and to conflate force and consent.

I hope the judge who presided over today’s hearings is a reasonable one.
Click here for all Sex in the Public Square posts that make reference to Genarlow Wilson’s case.

And a tip of the hat to JanieBelle for sending this CNN story on Wilson’s hearing today just as I was finishing this post!


Filed under Genarlow Wilson, moral panic, News and politics, sex, sex and the law, sexuality and age

13 responses to “Update in Genarlow Wilson Case

  1. Y’know what they say:

    “Timing is everything.”


  2. This case is the very definition of insanity. Even the never-take-a-stand Washington Post is calling for Genarlow Wilson’s release. They write: “The time has come for Georgia to end this national farce.” If there is any good that may come out of this case let’s hope it will be the end of zero tolerance and mandatory minimums.

  3. Genarlow Wilson ordered released

    ATLANTA (AP) — A judge on Monday voided a 10-year sentence for a man accused of having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. He instead gave Genarlow Wilson a 12-month misdemeanor sentence with credit for time already served.

    The state is likely to appeal the ruling.

    Wilson’s original sentence, for aggravated child molestation, was widely criticized on the grounds it was grossly disproportionate to the crime, and state lawmakers later passed a law to close the loophole that led to the 10-year sentence.

    Wilson, now 21, has already served more than 27 months. He could remain behind bars while the appeal proceeds.

  4. Heh. I beat CNN to the AP wire, apparently. They got their story up three minutes before I posted here, but that’s only because I took five minutes to do my happy dance.


  5. JanieBelle you have to be our star reporter on the new site! (I’m announcing it later — but you know where to find it so check it out now and pick out your spot.)

    I’m doing my own happy dance right here. Thanks for delivering the good news!

  6. Happy as always to do it, Elizabeth.


  7. I’ll have to pop in later this evening, though.

    I’m on my way out the door to the beach.

    I’ll be thinking of you all as I frolic wantonly in the water.


  8. Not to be a wet blanket, or anything, because I do think this is good news, but there are some pieces to pay close attention to: the state is likely to appeal according to the CNN story, and Wilson may be kept in prison during the appeal. I’m stuck in the office and can’t follow this closely right now but I’ll check in later. Unless JanieBelle beats me to it from the beach!

  9. BR

    Just a quick comment (though I wish I had a little more time right now to answer more elaborately):

    Without having studied law, my commentary on not retroactivating certain cases after new legislation may be shallow or too unsophisticated, though here it is…There doesn’t seem to be much sense or, more important, justice in not retroactivating someone’s case, in this situation that of Genarlow Wilson. If the state legislature passed a new law, wouldn’t failure to apply it – even if the law was different when the act was committed – be a breach of law or a case of applying law that no longer exists? It seems philosophically incongruous to enforce a penalty that has been determined implausible.

    This said, what if the laws in question were reversed? That is, what if Mr. Wilson had served only a misdemeanor penalty of 10 months when he was convicted and years later the Georgia Legislature changed the penalty to a felony? Would it be just to locate Mr. Wilson and incarcerate him? I doubt anyone would support that.

    So, what to do in the current situation? Well, he is in custody, has already served over two years, and the law is different. While not all cases can be retroactivated, those that can should be. I personally have no problem accepting releasing Mr. Wilson.

  10. Y’know Elizabeth, after I had posted that and was about to shut the ‘puter down, I realized I had done that. I thought, “Fix it, or go to the beach and let them figure it out?”

    I guess we all know what option won out…


    BR, it is rather crappy that the law wasn’t made retroactive. Seems to me that it always should be retroactive when it benefits the people, but never when it hurts them, if that makes any sense.

    ‘course, I’m not in charge.


  11. This is new at CNN:

    ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — A judge on Monday threw out the 10-year sentence against a 21-year-old for a consensual sex encounter he had as a teenager. But the state attorney general quickly filed a notice of appeal, keeping Genarlow Wilson in prison for the time being.

    The prosecutor’s move brought an abrupt halt to the jubilation Wilson’s mother, Juannessa Bennett, and his attorney, B.J. Bernstein, were feeling, and the plans they were making for Bennett to be reunited with her son.

    “It is extremely, extremely disturbing that the attorney general would take this action now,” Bernstein said, adding that she did not know what message “he’s trying to send” or “who he’s representing.”

    In a written statement, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said he filed the appeal to resolve “clearly erroneous legal issues,” saying that while the judge did have the authority to grant habeas relief, he did not have the authority “to reduce or modify the judgment of the trial court.”

    Separately, Baker noted that Douglas County recently had offered a plea deal “that would have allowed Genarlow Wilson to plead to First Offender Treatment, which would mean that he would not have a criminal record nor would he be subject to registering on the sex offender registry once his sentence had been completed.”

    “The plea deal, if accepted by Genarlow Wilson’s lawyers, could also result in Genarlow Wilson receiving a sentence substantially shorter than the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for which he was originally sentenced, possibly leading to his release based upon time already served,” Baker wrote.

    “Genarlow Wilson, through his attorneys, rejected all of those offers. The district attorney’s office has indicated that the plea offer will remain available to Genarlow Wilson notwithstanding the appeals process,” according to Baker’s statement.

    btw, my comments at SitPS.org are all disappearing, and I’m getting a “service not available” message on a plain white page when I submit a comment.

  12. Hi, I wrote a blog about structural/Institutional racism in the United States linking together the cases of the Jena Six trial in Louisiana, Shaquanda Cotton in Texas, and Genarlow Wilson in Georgia. It is a national phenomena that young black children are being locked away for minor crimes.


    I think it is important to put a face on structural and institutional racism in America. It is claiming real victims, and they are getting younger by the day now that Zero-tolerance policies have come about.

    C.B. from Advancement Project