ATLANTA, June 14 — Georgia’s Supreme Court agreed on Thursday to hear the state’s arguments for keeping in prison a man who had consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. The state’s attorney general later said the prisoner’s release could lead to hundreds of incarcerated child molesters looking for a way out.
Attorney General Thurbert Baker has been criticized for appealing a state judge’s decision to void Genarlow Wilson’s 10-year sentence. He said at a news conference that he has no choice under the law, and that the state Superior Court had no authority to reduce or modify the trial court’s sentence.
Baker called the sentence “harsh” but added, “It looms much larger than just this Genarlow Wilson case, and we have to keep that in mind.”
The court said it will hear the case in October.
Wilson, now 21, has served more than 28 months in prison. A jury convicted him in 2005 of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with the girl during a 2003 party. Although the sex was consensual, it was illegal under Georgia law.
Wilson’s lawyer will seek to get his client released on bond at a hearing on July 5. Baker said he will not oppose bond while the appeal moves forward.
At a rally and prayer vigil Thursday night that drew 150 protesters at the state Capitol in Atlanta, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, president emeritus of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said he and others question Baker’s assertion that releasing Wilson would open the floodgates for other appeals.
“If there are 1,300 people in jail under the same circumstances as Genarlow Wilson, well, they ought to get out,” he said, adding that most of those inmates were probably convicted of more serious crimes and would not be freed.