Hat Tip: By SHANNON McCAFFREY, Associated Press Writer
District Attorney David McDade has handed out some 35 copies of a video of teenagers having sex at a party.
McDade says Georgia’s open-records law leaves him no choice but to release the footage because it was evidence in one of the state’s most turbulent cases — that of Genarlow Wilson, a young man serving 10 years in prison for having oral sex with a girl when they were teenagers.
McDade’s actions have opened him up to accusations that he is vindictively misusing his authority to keep Wilson behind bars — and worse, distributing child pornography.
“This has been a ferocious, vindictive prosecution of Genarlow Wilson,” said state Sen. Vincent Fort, an Atlanta Democrat. “What is going on is a vendetta.”
McDade, who is district attorney in Douglas County, in suburban Atlanta, did not immediately return calls Thursday.
He has said that while the law required him to release the video, he also believes the footage helps his case — by showing that Wilson is not the squeaky-clean football star and honor student portrayed by his supporters.
“Most of those who do not want people to see the tape know that it’s damning to their position,” McDade told The Associated Press.
He released the video after receiving an open records request from the AP, and said he has given it to about three dozen people, including reporters, lawmakers and several members of the public who requested it.
It shows Wilson, then 17, receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl and having intercourse with another 17-year-old girl. It was shot at a 2003 New Year’s Eve Party at a hotel room by another partygoer.
Earlier this week, Georgia’s chief federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, said the video “constitutes child pornography under federal law,” and he called on McDade’s office to stop releasing copies.
“These laws are intended to protect the children depicted in such images from the ongoing victimization of having their sexual activity viewed by others,” Nahmias said.
Nahmias’ office refused to say whether he would bring criminal charges against the D.A.
Critics say that at the very least, McDade should have obscured the faces of the underage girls to conceal their identity, or sought a protective order to keep the material under seal.
Such steps are common in sex abuses cases, especially those involving underage victims, said Diane Moyer, legal director for the Pennsylvania-based National Sexual Violence Research Center.
“The bottom line is we need to have respect for the victims in these kinds of cases,” Moyer said. “To release this kind of thing, to me it’s prurient and it takes the open records law too far.”
Several Wilson supporters likened McDade to disgraced Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong and called on Georgia’s attorney general to investigate.
“Mike Nifong lost his license, and if he lost his license, then certainly a district attorney that distributes child pornography ought to be investigated,” the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said Thursday.
State Sen. Emanuel Jones said he would introduce legislation to block district attorneys from handing over photographic images in sex cases.
“I’m going to call it the David McDade Act,” Jones said. “Sometimes we have to protect our kids from district attorneys.”
Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with the 15-year-old girl. He has served more than two years of a mandatory 10-year sentence.
The law Wilson was convicted of breaking made consensual oral sex between teens a felony. It has since been changed by the Georgia Legislature. But the state’s courts have held that the new law cannot be applied retroactively.
A judge last month called Wilson’s sentence “a grave miscarriage of justice” and ordered him set free. But prosecutors are trying to block his release. The Georgia Supreme Court is set to hear the case next week.
McDade fought a bill in the Legislature earlier this year that would have helped Wilson. Some lawmakers who were on the fence changed their mind after seeing the tape.
The County prosecutor in this case, David McDade, is a racist-plain and simple. The release of child porn-anything with juveniles under 18, is a damn crime and he knows it. Call me what you will but white folks don’t get treated like this. So much for his so-called concern for the girls whose identity could be up on the internet now for all to see.