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Rally for Bill that Could Free Genarlow Wilson Set for Today Near Atlanta's Capitol Building

Date: Thursday, February 15, 2007
By: Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com




A rally is scheduled at 4 p.m. EST Thursday at the legislative office building next to the state Capitol building in Atlanta to support a bill that could free Genarlow Wilson, the Georgia teen sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl at a teenage sex party.

Last month, Georgia state Sen. Emmanuel Jones visited Wilson in prison and the next day gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor and introduced the legislation, saying it was wrong to keep the youth imprisoned.

Jones told BlackAmericaWeb.com he believed Wilson's imprisonment constituted "cruel and unusual punishment."

"It's not just Genarlow, but there are other kids who have been impacted by this legislation," Jones said, including Wilson's codefendants and other teenagers convicted before July 2006 under a law which was originally intended to punish adult sexual predators.

Wilson and four other young men admitted to detectives that they had had sex with one teenaged girl and that another had performed oral sex on them at a 2004 New Year's Eve party in a Douglasville, Ga., hotel that involved about a dozen youths. Under Georgia law at the time, oral sex with anyone under the age of 16 could be classified as aggravated child molestation, even if it occurred between two teenagers fewer than three years apart in age, and the sex was consensual. Wilson was 17 years old at the time of the incident.

Consensual intercourse between teenagers was, and remains, a misdemeanor.

The code was amended last July to treat consensual oral sex between teenagers no more than four years apart as a misdemeanor.

Wilson was convicted in 2005, sentenced to a mandatory 10-years term and, according to the law in effect at the time, must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after he completes his sentence and is released. His co-defendants pleaded guilty to lesser charges and received shorter sentences, but also must register as sex offenders under the deal.

In December, the Georgia State Supreme Court turned down an appeal on Wilson's behalf seeking a new trial.

Presiding Justice Carol Hunstein noted that in easing the penalties for teens, "the Legislature expressly chose not to allow the provisions of the new amendments to affect persons convicted under the previous version of the statute."

Hunstein added she was "very sympathetic" to Wilson's argument, but that the court was bound by the limits set by the legislature.

Senate Bill 37, introduced by Jones and four primary co-sponsors, would allow a court imposing a sentence on several charges, including sodomy and aggravated child molestation charges, stemming from a conviction before July 1, 2006 to "correct or reduce the sentence and to suspend or probate all or any part of the sentence imposed." That would allow a judge to reverse Wilson's conviction.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday afternoon, Jones said, in the legislative building at 18 Capitol Square, Room 310.

"I just did a little dance" when Jones visited her client in prison, said Wilson's attorney, B.J. Bernstein. "It was the first time I heard anyone in the government say the same thing that we have been saying."

Jones said that the bill enjoys support in both houses of the Georgia legislature, but the process has moved slowly.

"The D.A. in this case is one of the chief lobbyists at the Capitol and has connections with the leadership," Jones said, "and that's why the legislation hasn't been moving as quickly as I would like to see it move."

Once the bill passes the legislature, it goes to Gov. Sonny Perdue. Jones said he does not know whether the governor will sign the bill, but he is hopeful because Perdue supported the revisions last year to the original law.

Bernstein told BlackAmericaWeb.com that bill has bipartisan support in the state legislature and that Wilson's case has received a lot of support around the country from the public, the NAACP and even from U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq.

"I've gotten about 25 e-mails from soldiers in Iraq who say they are defending our country and are upset about what is happening in their country," Bernstein said. "There is a difference between a war on crime and a war on children."

She said she is hoping for a large turnout at the rally.

"When I get the support from the community, that has a way of affecting legislators," Jones said. "When we get a strong showing from the community, it has a way of impacting the legislature and changing minds."
And then the very next day Roll Eyes

Hearing on Bill That Could Free Genarlow Wilson Taken Off Schedule, Sparks Heated Debate

Date: Friday, February 16, 2007
By: Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com


A hearing scheduled for Thursday on a bill that could free a Georgia teen sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex was suddenly taken off the state senate calendar, according to the lawyer for the teenager.

A rally, scheduled to show support for the legislation, also was called off, said lawyer B.J. Bernstein, who represents Genarlow Wilson.

The bill was pulled off the calendar with no explanation, at least "nothing on the record," Bernstein told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "I'm just frustrated."

Last month, Georgia state Sen. Emmanuel Jones introduced the legislation that would allow judges to reverse convictions before July 1, 2006 under the state's sodomy bill. Before July 1, teenagers who engaged in consensual oral sex with another teenager could be found guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a minor, even if there were only a few years' difference in age between the teens.

The law, which was intended to punish adult sexual predators, has caught up a number of teenagers throughout the state on a technicality, which has landed them in prison with a mandatory 10-year sentence and a lifetime on the sexual offender registry after they are paroled.

The code was amended last July to treat consensual oral sex between teenagers no more than four years apart as a misdemeanor, the same punishment given for consensual intercourse between teenagers.


The bill was pulled off the calendar on Wednesday and Jones tried to submit it as an amendment to another piece of legislation, touching off a virulent attack by opponents of the bill, Bernstein said. The heated debate was captured on video, which is being disseminated to the local broadcast media in Atlanta, she said.

The legislative session in Georgia only lasts 40 days, so Bernstein said she hopes some action can be taken to get the bill back on track in the next two weeks.

"I wish the governor would take the leadership and say something," Bernstein said.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has said nothing publicly about the bill, but Jones noted in an interview with BlackAmericaWeb.com earlier this week that Perdue supported the revisions last year to the original law.

"It's not just Genarlow, but there are other kids who have been impacted by this legislation," Jones said in that interview.

Wilson and four other young men admitted to detectives that they had had sex with one teenaged girl and that another had performed oral sex on them at a 2004 New Year's Eve party in a Douglasville, Ga., hotel, which involved about a dozen youths. Wilson was convicted in 2005. His codefendants pleaded to lesser charges and received shorter sentences, but also must register as sex offenders under the deal.

Wilson's case was similar to that of Marcus Dixon of Rome, who at 18 was convicted of child molestation and misdemeanor statutory rape after having consensual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl in 2003. The state Supreme Court overturned Dixon's conviction, saying it did not believe the law intended to punish teens willingly involved in sexual activity.

Dixon didn't challenge the misdemeanor statutory rape charge that only required a one-year sentence.

The difference for Wilson is that under the former law, oral sex with someone under 16, even during consensual sex between teens, is still classified as sodomy, which is a felony and punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

In December, the Georgia State Supreme Court turned down an appeal on Wilson's behalf seeking a new trial. Presiding Justice Carol Hunstein said she was sympathetic to the youth's situation but bound by the limits set by the legislature, which did not apply the new provisions of the revised law to people previously convicted under the original law.

Jones said the bill enjoyed significant support in both houses of the legislature, but the process has moved slowly because the district attorney in the case was an influential lobbyist at the Capitol and had opposed efforts to free Wilson.

Douglas County District Attorney David McDade is a past member of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council, which oversees a budget for statewide prosecution in Georgia.

"He wants the kid to take one of his pleas," Jones told the Atlanta Journal Constitution last month. "The law has changed, the state has changed, and he needs to change."

"Sen. Jones is still committed to this," Bernstein told BlackAmericaWeb.com on Thursday. "We're trying to regroup. I'm going to talk to the senators (who support the bill) and see if I can get some guidance."

Bernstein said CNN will broadcast an update on Wilson's case at 10 p.m. EST Sunday on "CNN Newsroom" and that the Fox network is planning a story for early next week.

In December, Bernstein said she intended to file a "habeas action" in civil court, which says, basically, that Wilson is being held in prison unlawfully. The action allows Bernstein to raise legal questions that the youth's original lawyer did not. However, on Thursday, Bernstein said she had held off on the filing until the Senate acted on the bill.

"We may still need to do that," Bernstein said. "Obviously, the legislature is the quickest fix. But at some point, we may have to do that if something doesn't happen in the next two weeks."
Yep, his life is ruined for something the law wasn't intended to punish, consensual sexual conduct amongst minors. Mad

You know what? I think this would be a great task for the NAACP or any other organization that opposes unequal application [i.e., racial disparity] of the law.

The organiation should go throughout the state, interviewing private school students [the wealthier, the better] about sexual behavior. Then, at the end of the study, present the State Attorney General with a list of "suspected sex offenders" and demand that he/she act to protect the community; or, move to free Wilson and expunge his, and Dixon's records due to the disparate race based application of the law.
GOP Rep. Blocks Bill To Free Genarlow Wilson

Genarlow Wilson is still serving ten years for BJ. I recently blogged about the insanity of sentencing this teenager to ten years for consensual oral sex with another teen. Wilson is still behind bars despite recent efforts to pass legislation to free him. According to today's New York Times:

Senator Emanuel D. Jones, a Democrat, sponsored the legislation, which would make it possible for judges to reconsider the cases of hundreds of young adults, including Mr. Wilson, who are serving long mandatory minimum sentences in prison for having consensual sex with teenage minors. Mr. Jones said the bill was mysteriously left off the agenda of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

And on Monday, the Senate's leader, Eric Johnson, publicly denounced the bill and said that although Mr. Wilson, now 20, was serving a harsh sentence, he deserved no leniency.



According to Wilson's lawyer BJ Bernstein, the bill which would have freed this young man as mysteriously vanished from the agenda of Georgia's Senate Judiciary Committee last week:
A rally, scheduled to show support for the legislation, also was called off, said lawyer B.J. Bernstein, who represents Genarlow Wilson. The bill was pulled off the calendar with no explanation, at least "nothing on the record," Bernstein told BlackAmericaWeb.com. "I'm just frustrated."

Yesterday GOP lawmaker Eric Johnson wrote an op-ed criticizing the bill after he originally supported the bill:
Usually, society complains about sentences that are perceived as too soft. Granted, this sentence was harsh. But it was MANDATORY under the law. Life comes with accountability for our decisions. Genarlow Wilson could have selected different friends to hang with. He could have joined millions of law-abiding teens all over the country enjoying New Years' Eve without alcohol, drugs and sex. He could have left the hotel when "the fun" started. He didn't. He made a choice. Now his life has changed forever. That is sad. I hope other young men and girls will learn from this tragedy and avoid his errors.

Johnson admits the sentence his harsh and tragic, yet he remains willing to throw this young man's life away. As Johnson himself says, "life comes with accountability for our decisions". I say we hold Johnson accountable for his decision to continue this injustice. The Georgia legislature and its flip-flopping leader Johnson must be held accountable for this tragedy. The bill should be placed back on the agenda and Georgians should have the chance to correct this gross miscarriage of justice.
You can sign an online petition here and support Genarlow's legal defense fund here.
We need to help free Genarlow now!
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karen-russell/gop-rep-blo...ll-to-f_b_41645.html

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