Georgia Supreme Court on Friday ordered that Genarlow Wilson, the young Black man imprisoned for having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17, be released from prison. The Court ruled in a 4-3 decision that his sentence was cruel and unusual punishment.
Wilson has spent two years behind bars.
“We’re working it out right now,” Wendy Guarisco, media consultant for Wilson’s attorney, told Essence.com when asked for the date of his release. “There’s lots of paperwork and procedures to go through, but I’m hoping it’s a matter of hours and not a matter of days.”
Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation in 2005, under a Georgia law, which states that oral sex is a felony if one of the persons engaging in the act is under 16, regardless of the other person’s age. He was given a mandatory ten-year sentence. It is likely that because of Wilson’s high-profile case, the law was changed last year to reduce the act to a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of one year in prison. However, the change in the law was not applied retroactively, so Wilson was still expected to serve ten years.
Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears wrote in Friday’s decision that changes in the law “represent a seismic shift in the legislature's view of the gravity of oral sex between two willing teenage participants.”
The court’s majority opinion continued, “Although society has a significant interest in protecting children from premature sexual activity, we must acknowledge that Wilson’s crime does not rise to the level of culpability of adults who prey on children and that, for the law to punish Wilson as it would an adult, with the extraordinarily harsh punishment of ten years in prison without the possibility of probation or parole, appears to be grossly disproportionate to his crime.”