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Man gets 10 years for oral sex as teen

- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) — A man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17 should serve out the widely criticized mandatory term, a prosecutor told a judge yesterday.

An attorney for Genarlow Wilson, now 21, asked the appellate judge to throw out the aggravated child molestation sentence on the grounds it is grossly disproportionate to the crime. Defense attorney B.J. Bernstein noted that state lawmakers enacted a law to close the loophole that led to Wilson's sentence.

"It gets back to common sense," Mr. Bernstein said. "This very act is only a misdemeanor with no sex offender registration today."

Prosecutor Paula Smith argued that the new law cannot be applied retroactively.

"The General Assembly did not make it retroactive," Miss Smith said. "They had the prerogative to do so; they did not."

If Wilson had had sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old, he would have fallen under Georgia's "Romeo and Juliet" exception. But under the law in 2003, oral sex between teens constituted aggravated child molestation and carried a mandatory sentence.

Wilson, who has served more than 27 months in prison, watched as his legal team again tried to free him while they pursue a claim that his constitutional rights are being violated. Monroe County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson said he expects to issue a decision on Wilson's appeal by noon Monday.

Wilson's sentence has been denounced even by members of the jury that convicted him and the author of the 1995 law that put him behind bars.

"The law was designed to protect kids against really, really bad people doing very bad things," said the sponsor, former state Rep. Matt Towery, a Republican. "It was never intended to put kids in jail for oral sex."

In 2003, Wilson was an honors student, standout athlete and homecoming king preparing for his SATs with an eye toward college. At a New Year's Eve party involving alcohol, marijuana and sex, someone videotaped the girl performing oral sex on Wilson.

Georgia lawmakers changed the law last year to make consensual oral sex between teens a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year behind bars. Offenders do not have to register as sex offenders, as Wilson will be required to do.

The state's top court ruled that the 2006 change couldn't be applied retroactively to Wilson's case. An attempt earlier this year to pass a bill that would provide a remedy for Wilson has stalled.