Apparently, the statutory rape laws have changed since the defendant was convicted, but he’s not getting the benefit of that. The new laws would exempt consensual relations between teenagers close in age — since the whole point of statutory rape laws is to protect children and teens from adult predators, not from consensual sex with their peers.
I’m having a bit of trouble untangling all the details, but it appears that the sexual contact was public and videotaped, and the reason the tape came to the attention of authorities was that one of the girls participating, a 17-year-old, had been impaired during the filming, didn’t feel that she gave meaningful consent, and informed her mother (from what I gather, statutory rape wasn’t an issue with her because of her age). But the 15-year-old was clear that she consented, and the conviction was for the 15-year-old.
Another bit of weirdness is that the defendant would have been better off having sex with the 15-year-old rather than getting a blow job from her, since the law treats PIV sex as less serious than sodomy. Meaning, I suppose, that men who have sex with teenage boys are treated more harshly than men who have sex with teenage girls.
The fact that this defendant’s sentence has been upheld even though what he has been charged with is no longer a crime because of his age relative to the girl involved is an outrage. And I definitely agree with Jessica — the idea that teenage girls who have sex with their peers are automatically victims is really damned insulting. There’s protection, and there’s paternalism — and trying to criminalize consensual sexual contact between peers is paternalism (as is treating consensual gay sex as more of a crime than consensual het sex).
The prosecutor, David McDade, the district attorney in Douglas County, west of Atlanta, says he has repeatedly offered Mr. Wilson the opportunity to resolve the case with a plea deal, adding that he would have to be treated similarly to the other defendants in the case, who are serving five- to seven-year prison sentences with a chance at parole. They, too, will have to register as sex offenders.
Mr. Wilson is adamant that he will not plead.
“Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender wherever I lived and if I applied for a job for the rest of my life, all for participating in a consensual sex act with a girl just two years younger than me,” he told a reporter for Atlanta magazine last year, adding that he would not even be able to move back in with his mother because he has an 8-year-old sister. “It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester.”
The Times article clears up some details: The state had a Romeo and Juliet exception in place for PIV intercourse, but not for oral sex; the Georgia Legislature changed the laws in response to Genarlow Wilson’s conviction, but the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the sentence because it was issued under the old law; it also gives a description of what happened on the tape:
On New Year’s Eve in 2003, Mr. Wilson and several friends rented a hotel room for a party at which they planned to have plenty of alcohol, marijuana and sex. One friend, goofing around with a video camera, captured much of the action on videotape. A 17-year-old girl reported after leaving the party that she had been gang raped. The tape showed that she was severely intoxicated.
A second girl, 15, also attended the party, but did not drink or smoke. She had what she later said was consensual oral sex with Mr. Wilson. But according to the law, a 15-year-old is below the age of consent. Mr. Wilson went to trial on charges of rape and aggravated child molesting.
After watching parts of the tape, the jury decided that Mr. Wilson had not raped the older girl. But it was bound by law to find him guilty of molesting the 15-year-old. Jurors said afterward they did not know that the charge carried a minimum sentence of 11 years, including 10 without parole.
The prosecutor, it should be noted, is white and both Genarlow Wilson and the 15-year-old are black. Scott has more on why that’s particularly relevant in light of many of the civil rights decisions of the Warren Court.
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