While I was on vacation, I saw that Genarlow Wilson, a young athlete from the Atlanta area in prison for having oral sex with a younger girl was released from prison by the Georgia Supreme Court. The Wilson case drew national attention because it arose in the aftermath of the Marcus Dixon Case. Dixon, like Wilson was a talented athlete who was imprisoned for having sex with a younger girl. The Georgia law at the time required a mandatory sentence when the age difference between consenting participants was more than two years younger that resulted in injury. Dixon’s conviction was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court shortly before Wilson’s case occurred.
The case came to my attention when I was an intern in the Georgia Governor’s office as the Executive Counsel’s intern. I worked for Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton who at the time was the Executive Counsel to the Governor. At the time, the case was just beginning to get publicity because video of the incident between Wilson, his friends and the underage girl had leaked to the media. The case was beginning to snowball and I had to give a report to the Executive Counsel explaining how Wilson’s case differed from Dixon’s. Wilson, like Dixon, was charged with aggravated child molestation and faced a mandatory sentence. What made the Wilson case legally interesting was that although the Supreme Court ruled in Dixon’s case that the legislature’s intent was not to subject those convicted of consensual sex with a younger person to felony molestation charges, the precedent did not extend to cases where the conduct involved non-procreative sex.
Both cases drew national attention because of the perceived injustice facing two young males who had done nothing more than have sex with arguably consenting young women. There was a lot of talk about their promising futures lost to the harsh realities of being a convicted felon sex offender. However what seems to be missing is the discourse on why society allows young male athletes a pass when they take part in denigrating young women. In Wilson’s case particularly his behavior was deplorable. He not only took part in encouraging a young girl to perform a sexual act on him and his friends, they also videotaped the episode. Despite this, many people rushed to his defense and demanded his release. Maybe the punishment was harsh, but what about the damage he did to the young girl he took advantage of? What about her future?