The Genarlo Wilson case is a cause celeb. Petitions have been signed, websites started, the most prominent being www.wilsonappeal.com. Celebrities have come to his defense (including my own brother Mark Cuban), documentaries abound, the most noteworthy being one aired by my brother Mark Cuban’s high definition television Network, HDnet.
I frankly had not blogged on it because of the reasons cited above. A lot has been written and said. I’m not sure that I can add any viewpoint that is not already out there. I don’t blog to regurgitate; I like to hopefully educate and offer different viewpoints on various issues. While there is so much out there on this that I am not sure I have anything new to add, I am going throw my 5¢ in:
Genarlo Wilson sits in jail. At this point, he will continue to be in jail until about 2016. He will have to register as a sex offender when he is finally released. As if the 10 year jail term won’t beat him down, the sex offender tag will basically end all hopes to rebuild any semblance of a life when he is released. At the time he committed his crime he was 17 years old. His victim was 15 years old. So what terrible, heinous crime was committed that justified locking this kid up for a mandatory 10 years and tagging him as a sex offender upon his release?
He received a blow job from 15-year-old girl. That’s it, nothing more. It is undisputed that she had initiated the act. It is undisputed that it was consensual. She was, however, under the legal age of consent under Georgia law at the time.
Mr. Wilson was therefore charged with the crime of Aggravated Child Molestation, which was the crime which fit this factual scenario at the time. He was charged under a law designed to protect children from adult sexual predators. It doesn’t make sense, does it? There is no disputing the act took place so there is no disputing Mr. Wilson broke the law. It is statutory. Intent or consent is irrelevant. Mr. Wilson was tried and convicted. He sits in jail today.
So again, should Genarlo Wilson go home? Here are some of the pros and cons to that happening:
Let us not get lost in the facts of what really happened here. Genarlo Wilson made poor choices of his own doing which put him where he is. He is not the only person sitting in jail due to poor choices made worse by tough and unfair laws/sentencing guidelines. We all make poor choices with varying consequences. Should this have been the type of choice that ruins a life?
Mr. Wilson was also charged with and tried for the crime of raping a different woman at the same party that same night, and the issue here was not over a kid’s poor judgment. The issue was whether he had sex with an unconscious person so intoxicated that she was incapable of consent. A conviction for that would have put any person in prison for a long time. Genarlow was acquitted on this charge but that does not mean it didn’t happen. That means the state didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Legal guilt and factual guilt are not always mutually exclusive. Do you think OJ Simpson killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman? He was of course acquitted but do you think he did it?
To not acknowledge this issue would be a slap in the face to every woman who said no or was incapable of consent, only to see her rapist acquitted because the case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Are we going to say these women were not raped? He said/she said cases based solely on the issue of consent are next to impossible cases to win without corroborating physical evidence. Genarlo was acquitted. He was declared innocent of that crime. However, this is one aspect of his situation that will always bother me. I would be much more comfortable if I knew what the alleged victim in the rape case had to say about all this. Note also that I say all this not having viewed the videotape the jurors viewed before acquitting Mr. Wilson. It is very possible that after viewing the tape, I would not be of this state of mind.
Let us also not forget that a crime was committed! It was committed on videotape! Let us not hand Genarlo Wilson any “Upstanding Youth of the Community” awards. There was a lot of stuff going on at this party that most parents would not want their children to be a part of.
There is a lot of focus being put on what a good kid he is. “He is a good son… he was a good student… he was a great athlete.” I will accept all of that as true. I will also accept as true that there are thousands sitting in prison right now who were good sons, good students and great athletes. And they all made the one and only mistake of their lives. Are we going to set them all free? These may all be relevant in a parole or pardon hearing but last I looked none were a basis to overturn a conviction.
Why did this ever go to trial? It was a case he couldn’t win. It was a statutory crime they had on tape. What kind of advice was Genarlo getting from his attorney? In reality, he received the only advice his attorney could give. The advice was probably that there was no plea bargain he would get that lessened the long term impact on his life versus winning an appeal after a guilty verdict. Genarlo had no options. There was no plea offered that did not include a sex offender tag which can be worse than a prison sentence itself. His lawyer gave the only advice he could give.
The advice would be that legally Genarlo could not win this case. The only shot was to go for jury nullification. Play to the jury’s sympathies and hope they do not follow the law and simply do what is right. That rarely works and when it does, it is when you least expect it to. It didn’t work here. Genarlo was convicted and sentenced to a mandatory 10 year prison term.
Should the District Attorney have dropped/dismissed the charge against Genarlow in the interest of justice? How do we define justice? Genarlo did commit a crime. If I am a DA, maybe to me dropping that charge completely is not justice. That’s a toughie. I can understand why he didn’t. Could he have plead this down to a lesser offense that fit the facts? He absolutely should have done this if he could have. Shame on the District Attorney for not doing this. He had the discretion to do justice for everyone here and he chose politics. His political stand here was, “I don’t plead down sex offenses.” That is a great sound byte but to think that his constituents and the general public would not understand this exception is moronic and egocentric.
Would I have completely dropped the charges if there was an alternative that fit the offense? No, I would not. A crime was committed on tape. I agree with the District Attorney when he stated that he could not turn a blind eye to a documented crime. If he drops the charge, where does it end? How many others come out of the woodwork wanting similar treatment? However, for him not to bring the charges down to something fitting the offense versus the ludicrous five years plus sex offender tag he offered before trial is about politics and not justice.
The District Attorney was also just beaten in the rape case – a case in which he probably thought a rape was committed or he wouldn’t have pressed it. This is hindsight but was really easy to predict before it happened. The District Attorney just loses a rape case which would have carried a tough sentence and a sex offender tag. He is now going to drop a case he can’t lose that does the exact same thing? If you’re the District Attorney, does that make sense to you? The DA may have thought he was getting equal justice for the rape on a bite of a different apple. Is that appropriate? Probably not. I am sure that ego also played a part in losing the rape case. Ego has no place when your job is to “do justice.”
Blame the jury? Absolutely not! The jury would have had no idea of the ramifications of their guilty verdict. The fact that it would be a mandatory 10 years was not known to them at the time they rendered their verdict. Why? It is irrelevant and immaterial to Mr. Wilson’s guilt or innocence of the crime. For them to know would have been an immediate mistrial. The goal is to keep juries from deciding based on emotion versus the facts. Unfortunately it worked against Mr. Wilson here as they certainly would have nullified the case if they had known he was going to do 10 years. There has been a lot of play on what they would have done if they had known. I am sorry but there is no “Genarlo Wilson Exception” to this evidentiary rule. Overall, the rule serves a good purpose. We can’t have it both ways. Jury verdicts are supposed to be based on fact and not emotion. The jury did the right thing. It was also the right thing that they did not know the consequences of what they did.
So should Genarlo morally still be in prison? Of course not! The sentence was unduly harsh as compared to the crime committed. So we are back to Genarlo Wilson sitting in jail, with outcry everywhere. Set him free! Set him free! That’s bad news for all those petitions, websites, etc.
Genarlo Wilson is probably not going anywhere and is going to do his mandatory time with a sex offender tag unless he gets a pardon from the Georgia Governor or the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole after his appeals are exhausted. The DA has no incentive to do anything, and if he was going to do something he would have done it already. He was elected to his post on a “get tough” platform. I doubt he thinks the negative publicity of this case hurts him at all. He is doing what any politician would do – passing the buck. It saves him face with his constituents.
The Georgia Supreme Court has already denied cert. and rehearing on the case. There is another petition filed focusing on some different issues but it is a huge long shot. I don’t see the new appeal succeeding.
The legislators did all they could by correcting the law. They declined to make it retroactive because they would have had to consider the implications to every single person convicted under the law.
The legislature is trying to specifically enact a law targeting Mr. Wilson – not to exonerate him because no one is disputing what he did was a crime. To exonerate him would be akin to a pardon within the sole preview of either the governor of the State of Georgia or the Georgia State Board of Pardon and Parole, or both.
Georgia Senate Bill 37 proposes that at any point, a judge may change a sentence imposed on someone convicted prior to July 2006 of certain sex offenses that last year’s legislation deemed misdemeanors because they covered activity between teens in certain age ranges. This has been tried before in other states on other issues. This is politics. I would be shocked if it works. State legislators, even if in agreement with what the bill is trying to do, have to consider a larger constituency and wider ramifications. By the time this is studied, committed, tabled and restudied, Genarlo Wilson will probably have served the length of the plea bargain sentence offered by the District Attorney.
Keep the groundswell going because I predict that his fate will ultimately end up in the governor’s hands or in the hands of the Georgia State Board of Pardon and Parole and that’s where public outcry/opinion really count.
Should people throw money at his attorney to help with the appeal? Well, in my mind that depends on the grounds for his appeal. If the appeal is to challenge the constitutionality of the law or the sentence I say yes, help away; that’s a great case because it’s a terrible law that has Draconian application. I will state that it may be the wrong battle to pick as the appeal that had the best chance of success was already shot down by the Georgia Supreme Court. If you are contributing with regards to an appeal due to trial error, it is a tougher decision in my mind. Why? Back to what started all of this: the kid did commit a crime. It is sad he didn’t know it was a crime but as we have all heard a billion times, ignorance is not a defense. It applies to all of us. Is that form over substance? Who cares how he is out and why as long as he is out? Sure, that’s a valid point. However, there is a distinction in my mind. Maybe that’s just the attorney in me.
Should Genarlow Wilson be doing 10 years and have a sex offender tag for engaging in oral sex with a 15-year-old? The law has in fact been changed and he has served more time in prison than someone would who would be convicted of the same crime today. So the answer is no, of course he shouldn’t.
I agree completely that no justice is served by keeping this boy in jail and hanging a sex offender tag on him. That was not the intent of the statute; no one else received or will ever receive similar treatment. I believe Marcus Dixon, whose case was also widely publicized on The Oprah Winfrey Show is the only other person to be convicted due to similar facts. His conviction was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court but it was overturned for reasons that will not help Genarlow Wilson in his case.
However, I am now going to flip it around and state that maybe there is another girl who claimed to be a rape victim of Mr. Wilson who may now feel she has received justice. If Mr. Wilson was convicted on the rape charge, is there still all this outcry about this particular incident? I doubt it, but why? He would still be a good student, good son and good athlete. The issues on the aggravated molestation charge would be exactly the same (although the DA may not have prosecuted it with a rape conviction). Mr. Wilson was however acquitted of that charge. It is not before us. What is before us is a perversion of what the justice system is supposed to be about.
Genarlo Wilson should not be in prison. He has done all the time he should do and then some. He is not a child molester as general society defines the term and we are the ones being protected, right? He is no one that society needs protection from. His life has been altered forever for the worse. Enough is enough. There is no further point to be made here. He has served the max under current law. He gets it!
I don’t think his conviction will be overturned. I urge the Georgia Legislature to pass a law targeted at bringing the conviction and punishment in line with current Georgia Law if this can legally be done. This will probably end up being a pardon situation. I have seen zippo written about that. There is a good reason. If you start talking pardon now, you are conceding defeat on all other issues and making it easy for everyone else you need something favorable from to pass the buck to the governor. Since the buck is being passed, I urge Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to finally set Mr. Wilson free when it is laid in his lap (and it will be) if this is how the Georgia pardon system works.
If the perview is with the Georgia State Board of Pardon and Parole, I urge them to do the right thing by issuing a full and unconditional pardon to Mr. Wilson under their procedure for issuing such a pardon.
Here is hoping that if Mr. Wilson is freed. Here is to hoping the Georgia Correctional System does not turn Genarlow Wilson into a person the law he was convicted under was designed to protect us from when he is released.
You can watch the excellent HDnet World Report Segment below.