Genarlow Wilson spent two years in prison for having consensual oral sex at a New Year’s Eve Party. He was 17 at the time — his partner was 15. The encounter was videotaped and prosecutors charged the honor roll student, football star and homecoming king with aggrevated child molestation. “Genarlow Wilson is of an age where the law says he is expected to respect her youthfulness,” Douglas County District Attorney David McDade said in a “Primetime” interview last year.
After Wilson was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison, Georgia legislators changed the law that landed him in jail. They did not, however, make the new law retroactive to Wilson’s case. “I was shocked. I just knew my life was over,” Wilson said on “Primetime.”
Today, however, the Georgia Supreme Court said Wilson’s crime “does not rise to the level of adults who prey on children.” The court overturned the sentence, calling it “grossly disproportionate to the crime.” State legistalotrs applauded the court’s decision. “I said all along that the sentence that this kid received for having a consensual relationship was cruel and unusual. It was harsh punishment,” Georgia State Sen. Emmanuel Jones said. The case has always been about much more than age or consent — it was also about race. Wilson is black and his sex partner is white.
“The good thing about this case is that at least it resolves the issue for Genarlow Wilson for the moment,” said Charles Ogletree, a professor at Harvard Law School. “But the fact that we continue to have these incidents remains for me a problem in trying to achieve racial justice in America.” Today represents a victory for Genarlow Wilson, but some like Ogletree say it’s also a reminder that we still have a long way to go.