Posted Jun 11, 2007 11:41 pm CDT
A controversial 10-year mandatory prison sentence has been thrown out, in a case involving what has been described as consensual oral sex between a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old Georgia youth at a New Year’s Eve party three years ago.
A habeas corpus petition was granted today by a Georgia Superior Court judge, who wrote that it would be a “grave miscarriage of justice” for Genarlow Wilson to be required to continue serving the rest of his sentence, the New York Times reports. Wilson, an honors student and star athlete with no prior record, has already been behind bars for two years.
Many consider the sentence excessive, because sexual intercourse would have netted Wilson only a misdemeanor sentence, due to his age. Instead, Wilson was convicted of felony aggravated child molestation. The legislature has since amended the statute to provide an exception for youthful offenders. It declined, however, to apply the exception retroactively to his case, the Times reports.
The newspaper describes a joyous scene in the Atlanta office of Wilson’s attorney, Brenda Joy Bernstein, on Monday as the last page of the judge’s opinion appeared on her fax machine and she realized it was a release order. However, prosecutors were not celebrating and they say they intend to appeal the habeas grant, so it was not immediately clear whether Wilson will be released on bond.
Wilson was initially charged – and acquitted – of rape in the case, and Prosecutor David McDade still contends the situation at the party was not consensual. “Six young men basically gang-raped a 17-year-old and had repeated sex acts with a 15-year-old,” he said last year, in a television interview. “‘There’s no member of the legislature that I think would condone that behavior.’”