Saturday, January 27, 2007

The politics of sex crimes

The Georgia legislature is finally poised to do something about the case of Genarlow Wilson, a 17-year-old convicted of aggravated child molestation for having sex with a 15-year-old classmate.

Wilson, an honor student and football star, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a lifetime of being registered as a sex offender. His case has become a rallying point for people who believe he was wrongly convicted.

A web site has even been created asking people all over the world to sign a petition saying, "I register my outrage and object to the wrongful conviction of Genarlow Wilson for Aggravated Child Molestation for a consensual sexual act with another teen. A ten year prison sentence is wrong. He should not have to register as a sexual offender."

As usual, well-intentioned people have over-simplified the situation.

Wilson was one of six high school boys who rented a motel room, stocked it with liquor and marijuana, and invited female classmates to join them for a New Years party. The party came to light after a 17-year-old girl awoke the next morning naked except for socks. She called her mother saying she could remember nothing about the night before and thought she had been raped.

When police investigated, they found the motel room littered with condoms and a videotape showing the 17-year-old girl having sex with several of the boys, including Wilson, and a 15-year-old girl performing oral sex on Wilson and some of the others. The 15-year-old said she did not drink or smoke pot, and performed the acts willingly. All of the boys except Wilson pleaded guilty. Wilson stood trial, was convicted and received a mandatory 10-year sentence.

Now people are screaming racism and demanding a full pardon for Wilson. Never mind that all of the victims and all of the accused were of the same race.

As a result of the conviction, the Georgia Legislature relaxed the law, reducing what Wilson admitted doing to a misdemeanor. Georgia courts refused to apply it's provisions to Wilson because the law specifically states it does not apply to cases before its passage.

The legislature is now taking what seems to me to be a well-reasoned step. It is considering another law, Senate Bill 37, that would allow judges to decide whether the sentences of people convicted prior to the new law should be reduced. You can read about it in The Macon Telegraph. If you feel Wilson should not have received 10 years in prison, then register your support for the new measure by e-mailing State Sen. Emanuel Jones at the following address:

No comments: