Georgia judge voids 10-year sentence in teen consensual sex case, orders young man released

ATLANTA (AP) _ A Georgia judge ordered the release Monday of a man sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17.

The judge threw out Genarlow Wilson's previous sentence and amended it to misdemeanor aggravated child molestation with a 12-month sentence, plus credit for time served. Under the new ruling, he will not be required to register as a sex offender.

Wilson, now 21, has been behind bars for more than two years.

"If this court or any court cannot recognize the injustice of what has occurred here, then our court system has lost sight of the goal our judicial system has always strived to accomplish ... justice being served in a fair and equal manner," wrote Judge Thomas H. Wilson, no relation to Genarlow Wilson.

The original sentence, for aggravated child molestation, was widely criticized on the grounds it was grossly disproportionate to the crime. State lawmakers later passed a law to close the loophole that led to the 10-year sentence.

"The fact that Genarlow Wilson has spent two years in prison for what is now classified as a misdemeanor, and without assistance from this Court, will spend eight more years in prison, is a grave miscarriage of justice," the judge wrote.

The attorney general's office did not immediately comment.

A Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the agency cannot take any action regarding Wilson nor comment on his case until it receives a copy of the judge's order. Wilson's lawyers said they expected to talk with prison officials in the afternoon.

Genarlow Wilson's lawyers applauded in their office and hugged his mother, who wiped away tears, as the order came over a fax machine.

"We right now have an order of release and I beg the attorney general of the state of Georgia please do not file an appeal," said Wilson's lawyer, B.J. Bernstein.

Wilson's mother, Juannessa Bennett, said, "I just feel like a miracle happened."

A jury found the honor student guilty in 2005 of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl during a 2003 New Year's Eve party involving alcohol and marijuana. Although the sex act was consensual, it was illegal under Georgia law.

Wilson was also charged with rape for being one of several male partygoers at the Douglas County hotel to have sex with a 17-year-old girl, but was acquitted. The party was captured on a videotape that was played for the jury.

Several influential people, including former President Jimmy Carter, stepped forward to support Wilson.