Genarlow Wilson, in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17, will spend at least three more weeks in prison despite a judge ruling Monday he should be released, his lawyer said.
Douglas County Superior Court Judge David Emerson on Tuesday set the bond hearing for July 5 at 1:30 p.m.
Wilson’s attorney, B.J. Bernstein had been seeking a quick hearing in Douglas County court, even though the district attorney there has said he opposes the move.
“It’s a long ways away, especially when we just had a judge say he could be released,” Bernstein said of the July 5 hearing. “I just don’t understand why; all it would take is the consent from the district attorney to do that.”
On Monday, a judge said that Wilson should be freed from prison and not be listed on Georgia’s sex offender registry. Monroe County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wilson called the 10-year mandatory sentence he received “a grave miscarriage of justice” that violated the constitution.
But state Attorney General Thurbert Baker immediately announced his intention to appeal the decision, saying the sentence was valid. That move kept Wilson behind bars for now.
Baker is seeking an expedited appeal before the Georgia Supreme Court, which has already ruled against Wilson once.
Bernstein said Wilson had not yet heard news Tuesday afternoon of the court date. She said the time delay is not unusual for a typical pretrial hearing, but that Wilson’s is an atypical case.
“That happens in a lot of places, but this is really an unusual circumstance,” she said. “It’s not like we’re waiting to see if we’re guilty or not guilty of something.”
Prosecutors questioned why Wilson had not accepted a plea deal on the table that would allow him to serve a maximum of five years in prison and also avoid being listed on the state’s sex offender registry when he’s released from prison.
“Wilson, through his attorneys, rejected all of those offers,” Baker said in a statement.
Wilson has served more than 28 months in prison.
A jury in 2005 found Wilson guilty 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 another 17-year-old girl, but was acquitted. The party was captured on a videotape that was played for the jury.
The five other male partygoers took plea deals in the case.
Bernstein said Wilson’s family ran through an exhausting gamut of emotions Monday and Tuesday – from joy at the judge’s order to disappointment at the delays in his possible release.
“I had to get his mom some rest – she was having a very difficult time by the end of the day,” Bernstein said.
The case has drawn international attention, with supporters including former President Jimmy Carter, raising questions about the role of race in the judicial system’s treatment of Wilson, who is black.
At the time of his crime, Wilson would have faced just one year in prison if he had sexual intercourse with the girl. The “Romeo and Juliet” exception in Georgia law also would have allowed him to avoid the sex offender registry.
Lawmakers last year voted to close that loophole. But the state’s top court said the new law could not be applied retroactively to Wilson, now 21.