FORSYTH, Ga. — A former high school football star given 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with another teenager was freed Friday by Georgia’s highest court, which ruled that his sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Genarlow Wilson spent two years behind bars in the case that led to widespread protests of racism and heavy handed justice.
“I was in total disbelief,” Wilson told reporters outside the prison. “I’m finally happy to see we’ve got justice now.”
Wilson, 21, also said he wants to help other teens and offered some advice: “They should be very hesitant before they join certain crowds and make certain decisions.”
In its 4-3 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court noted that state lawmakers had scrapped the law that required a minimum 10-year prison term.
That change, the court said, represented “a seismic shift in the legislature’s view of the gravity of oral sex between two willing teenage participants.”
The justices also said Wilson’s sentence made “no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment,” and his crime did not rise to the “level of adults who prey on children.”
After he was imprisoned, Wilson became the subject of prominent editorials and national news broadcasts.