A Georgia judge ordered the release from prison Monday of a man sentence to 10 years imprisonment for consensual oral sex with a 15 year old girl when he was 17. The judge termed it as a 'grave miscarriage of justice'.
The sentence had been widely criticized as being grossly disproportionate to the crime. Even the jury that convicted him criticized the author of the law that put Genarlow Wilson behind bars.
The judge threw out Genarlow Wilson's previous sentence and amended it to misdemeanor aggravated child molestation with a 12-month sentence, plus credit for time served. Under the new ruling, he will not be required to register as a sex offender.
Several prominent people, including former President Jimmy Carter, publicly supported Genarlow Wilson's appeals, and state lawmakers voted to close the loophole that led to his 10-year term.
But the ruling does not ensure freedom just as yet to Wilson. His family's joy soon turned to disappointment when the Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said Monday afternoon that he had filed notice of appeal, arguing that Georgia law does not give a judge authority to reduce or modify the sentence imposed by the trial court. He said he would seek an expedited ruling from the Georgia Supreme Court.
Opponents of Wilson's release said it could open a floodgate for other cases. Georgia prisons currently hold 189 inmates who were sentenced for aggravated child molestation when they were 21 or younger. Wilson was caught on video tape having sex with a 15 year old girl during a 2003 New Year's Eve party involving alcohol and marijuana. The judge had found the honor student guilty in 2005 of aggravated child molestation.
"We right now have an order of release and I beg the attorney general of the state of Georgia please do not file an appeal," said Wilson's lawyer, B.J. Bernstein. ``It is extremely, extremely disturbing that the attorney general would take this action now,'' she said. ``In essence, the attorney general is saying, 'Keep Genarlow Wilson in prison for 10 years and keep him on the sex offender registry.''
``The fact that Genarlow Wilson has spent two years in prison for what is now classified as a misdemeanor, and without assistance from this Court, will spend eight more years in prison, is a grave miscarriage of justice,'' wrote Judge Thomas H. Wilson, no relation to Genarlow Wilson.
``If this court or any court cannot recognize the injustice of what has occurred here, then our court system has lost sight of the goal our judicial system has always strived to accomplish ... justice being served in a fair and equal manner,'' the judge wrote.