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January 12, 2008

Genarlow Wilson headed to college

Genarlow I was pleased to see this news report from Atlanta providing an update on the state and fate of Genarlow Wilson.  Here are highlights:

In his two years in prison, Genarlow Wilson did a lot of reading. One of his favorite books: Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life." The title could not be more appropriate for the next chapter in Wilson's highly publicized young life.

Nearly three months out of prison for committing a sex act with a teenager, Wilson, 21, plans to move into a dormitory at Morehouse College this weekend. He will live and study for free, thanks to the Tom Joyner Foundation, an educational nonprofit founded by the nationally syndicated radio personality. The foundation announced Thursday that it will cover the cost of tuition, room and board and books....

"I've been wanting to go to college for so long," said Wilson, who wants to major in sociology or education, with a minor in history. "I want to study and learn so I can be a mentor for others. It was very generous for [Joyner] to do that for me. I won't let him down."...

Wilson was released from prison Oct. 26 after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that his 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl was "cruel and unusual punishment." Wilson, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was convicted of felony aggravated child molestation. At the time, state law mandated a minimum 10-year sentence for the crime. The Legislature eventually changed the law to make such cases misdemeanors when they involved teenagers close in age....

Despite his ordeal, Wilson said he has no regrets. "I'm not mad about anything that happened, really," said Wilson, who now lives in Cobb County. "It helped me grow as a person, made me stronger, made me more ambitious. "I was at my lowest point in life. Now everything I wanted to do can finally happen."

I could not be happier that the Wilson story now has this happy ending; of course, there can be a lot more to the story in the years ahead.  I hope that Wilson might get seriously involved in sentencing reform movements because his name and his story alone can help a lot of politicians and voters understand the harms of — and the challenges to undo — extreme mandatory minimum sentencing provisions.

January 12, 2008 at 03:52 PM | Permalink


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What ever happened to the girl?

Posted by: Anne | Jan 12, 2008 11:23:40 PM

College is a much better place for him than prison.

It seems cases like his keep happening. People spending ludicrous amounts of time in prison for conduct which is not criminal, crimes of questionable severity, or conduct whose criminality is highly questionable and has yet to be determined.

Other recent examples include Alan Gell (for the second time), and Joe Francis.

What can we, as a country, do to combat this problem?

Posted by: William Jockusch | Jan 13, 2008 3:31:23 AM

There was another crime that I have not seen discussed in this blog. Someone took video of the sex act between the two teenagers. As both were under age 18, the crime of possession of child pornography could have been prosecuted. Wilson and others could be in federal prison right now. That statute (18 U.S.C. Section 2252A) is ridiculous. Congress is the problem.

I hope this kid graduates and goes on to law school. Then to Congress.

Posted by: M.P. Bastian | Jan 13, 2008 9:27:06 AM

Thanks for posting this, Doug! I am going to be discussing the Genarlow Wilson case with my sentencing class this week, and this will be a great note on which to end.

Posted by: c.hessick | Jan 13, 2008 12:02:19 PM

I wonder if this college has any rules about felons living in dorms. I wonder aloud because it's been a hot button issue in the Akron area for the past year or so.

Posted by: JustClerk | Jan 14, 2008 11:52:57 AM

In response can felons live in dorms issue.. Morehouse College is an all male school, so the felon rule really doesn't matter in that case. Also, I am happy that the legislature is finally making its rules applicable to the ever so changing society. I'm just displeased that a young man of such stature had to be the example. I'm glad Morehouse college has accepted this young man as they have been known to accept young men who have committed felonies who want to change their life around.

Posted by: J.Neal | Jan 14, 2008 7:20:05 PM

A young man of such stature. Let's not forget what happened here--Genarlow plied a 15 year old with drugs and alcohol to get her to engage in group sex with him and his buddies. Should this have been a crime, maybe, maybe not. But it's a stretch to praise his character. Hopefully, Mr. Wilson has learned from his ordeal and will grow into a productive citizen.

Posted by: federalist | Jan 14, 2008 7:42:11 PM

To "federalist" who says Mr. Wilson plied a 15-year-old with drugs and alcohol, let me say this: I've never, in all the news reports seen anything to that effect. Nor does it say that in the court papers. There is no evidence support your claim. And, I might add, the 15-year-old has said all along that it was consensual. So he was present where sex and drugs took place. Let me ask you this: what percentage of the nations "upstanding citizens" have been in similar situations? I bet it's a far bigger percentage than you might think.

Posted by: Cathy | Jul 24, 2008 5:46:32 PM

In Feb.2008, My son received 11 years and 6 months for Crime Against Nature[Oral Sex}In the State of North Carolina with his consenual fiance.In the privacy of there own bedroom..And she was the one performing it, and shes free, what is wrong with this picture.Yeah its a Felony in North Carolina which serves 10 years, so people beware what you do.Time for outdated stupied laws like this to change.It's nothing but a Witch Hunt.

Posted by: Geral | Aug 6, 2008 11:47:24 PM

Hope that girl is in college, too. Then law school. Then Congress.

Not that the sentence wasn't ridiculous, but "consensual," hmm...one 15-year-old in a roomful of 17-year-old boys, you gotta wonder how that could possibly be.

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Posted by: Term Papers | Dec 7, 2009 2:33:57 AM

Is he still in college today? where is he?

Posted by: cb | Mar 26, 2010 2:19:48 PM

The law was applied as I understand it because of the callous manner in which these young men acted. The fact is (as documented on a video tape) that Genarlow watched while other young men raped an unconscious 17 year old woman and then took his turn. The tape then shows them dragging her naked body to the bathroom and closing the door. This is not the kind of person I want representing me in Congress.

Posted by: Lisa | Jun 29, 2010 6:23:33 PM

There was another crime that I have not seen discussed in this blog. Someone took video of the sex act between the two teenagers. As both were under age 18, the crime of possession of child pornography could have been prosecuted. Wilson and others could be in federal prison right now. That statute (18 U.S.C. Section 2252A) is ridiculous. Congress is the problem.

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