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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This has really been bugging me

I'm not a parent yet, most of you know. But I think I have a little good sense.

So think about these rhetorical questions, these scenarios: First, you have a teenage daughter.

BTW, this is a long post. So I hope you have a few minutes to read.

Anyway, let's say your hypothetical daughter is 15. God forbid she's an irresponsible child, but let's say like many teens she's sexually active. Conceding that it is a given you would be angry to find out that your daughter is engaging in sexual activity, how old would the boy have to be for his age to make you angry too?

If he was also 15 would it enrage you that he was engaging in sexual activity with your 15-year-old daughter? What about if he was 16? Seventeen?

My snap judgment upon hearing about the criminal case of Genarlow Wilson was that (A) I too would be angry, period, to find my teen daughter was having sex, and (B) my go-bananas point would come if the boy was older than 17.

Don't ask me why. I guess I figured that at 17 the boy would also be a minor. So they'd both still technically be kids.

Last hypothetical: Flip the script, and imagine that it's your 15-year-old son we're talking about and the 17-year-old girl who's crushing on him. Or your child is the 17-year-old.

OK, enough meditating and cryptic talk. A couple of weeks ago I was driving back to the office from an interview, doing my usual AM talk radio channel surfing. And I came across a show where the host was talking about a young Georgia man named Genarlow Wilson.

I was doing a little homework earlier this evening and inadvertently stumbled across a story on the Web reminding me about Wilson.

A few years ago at a reportedly wild New Year's Eve party in Douglasville, GA, then 17-year-old Genarlow Wilson and five buddies engaged in sex acts with two 15-year-old girls. There was lots of booze being consumed and pot being smoked by some of the guys and one of the two girls. The second girl later told police she didn't drink or smoke anything that night. The sex acts were even videotaped. None of these kids was up for saint child of the year.

Girl number one, the one who did drink and smoke, awoke on New Year's Day in the hotel room where the party took place and she was naked, except for socks. She called her mother in a panic. Mom picked daughter up, took her home, and told her to bathe right away 'cause she reeked of booze and weed. Daughter complied but then broke down and told mom she thought the guys at the party might have raped her. Mom and daughter went to the local police and filed a report.

Police went to the hotel where Genarlow Wilson, the other guys, and girl number two (and some other kids) were still sleeping off their wild night.

Cutting to the chase, several of the guys told investigators they'd had consensual sexual intercourse with girl number one, the girl who called her mom. Wilson told investigators he'd received oral sex from girl number two. And girl number two reiterated to investigators that she drank nothing, smoke nothing and had no intention of pressing charges against any of the guys, because she had willingly (and reportedly eagerly, according to the videotape) performed on the guys.

The guys faced a variety of charges, including rape and child molestation. Five of them had been in trouble with the law before. One of them had even faced other sex charges and had a pending case at the time of the New Year's Eve party. The five who had been in trouble before copped pleas for lighter sentences. Wilson, the only one with a clean record (as well as a 3.2 GPA and multiple scholarship offers, etc.), refused to accept a deal.

His logic: he was 17, she was 15, and they both wanted to do what they did. Witness testimony and the videotape would clear him, he thought. So he'd be OK with the jury.

It wasn't OK. Aside from all their behavior being dumb, irresponsible, dangerous, etc., in Georgia having oral sex with a person under the age of 16 constitutes Aggravated Child Molestation. It carries a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison and the lifelong label of sex offender. Ironically, actual intercourse with a teen under 16 carries less mandatory jail time in Georgia.

Wilson was charged with rape and child molestation. A jury acquitted him of raping girl number one, with whom he had allegedly engaged in intercourse. However, in accordance with Georgia law Wilson was convicted of Aggravated Child Molestation for the oral sex with girl number two. He got the 10 years. During his trial, down the hall in another courtroom a 27-year-old female high school teacher was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a male student. He was 17. The teacher got three years probation and just 90 days in jail.

Wilson has been in prison now for two years, with many more to go. The Georgia legislature has since altered the applicable law. Had he been convicted after the alteration Wilson would have faced a max of 12 months in jail.

It's important to note that the guys and girls told investigators that they really hadn't considered each other's ages 'cause they were all classmates, under 18, etc. In other words they figured as long as everyone was willing what they were doing was OK, 'cause they were all peers.

Am I the only one bothered by this guy serving a 10-year prison term for having consensual oral sex with a teen who was two years his junior at the time? Or did none of you, as 17 or 18-year-old high school seniors, even do "things" with classmates who were two or three years younger than you?

Oral sex. 15, 17. 10 years. Maybe I'm getting soft, but that seems harsh.

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  • That poor kid. I don't think he should have gotten any jail time!! What the hell!! And what about her? did she get any jail time? She's the one that performed it, no?? No, it's not right.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 1:40 AM  

  • Thinkijg back to when I was that age...sheesh that's messed up.

    By Blogger Hammer, at 2:18 AM  

  • I heard about it (saw him on TV)

    All those kids should have had to do public service and go through all sorts of classes about respect and about addiction and about sexually transmitted disease.

    But to put him in jail was rape.... by they justic system.


    By Blogger Pamela, at 2:25 AM  

  • A mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison and the lifelong label of sex offender. Man. That law has a lot of teeth.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 6:45 AM  

  • overkill...poor kid, life ruined because of a flawed law...that was later changed anyways....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:52 AM  

  • Didn't Mike Tyson serve three years of a seven-year sentence for actual rape?

    Don't murderers routinely get probation after serving, say five or six or seven years?

    Sure, convict the poor kid and label him a sex offender and punish him socially and monetarily and perhaps even academically but then to add prison time?

    Wouldn't probation be more appropriate? It's so tough because the girl apparently changed her mind afterward but though she's below the age of sexual consent in that state (16) she's well above the age when humans develop the capacity to know right from wrong (7).

    The fact that she was drinking and smoking illegal drugs would make her, in my opinion, complicit at least partially.

    Law is such an art, isn't it?

    By Blogger Matt, at 9:59 AM  

  • I'd be very upset to know my 15-yr-old (boy or girl) was having sex. That said, this DOES seem very harsh.

    Like others have mentioned, thinking of my behavior as a teen... I could see how 15 and 17-yr-olds didn't think of their ages and just did whatever they wanted to do...

    By Blogger Tere, at 10:29 AM  

  • It's ridiculous! The kid might as well blow his head off when he finally gets out.

    By Blogger captain corky, at 10:49 AM  

  • Please also note the difference in genders in the two people being charged with sexual offenses: male student / female student, male gets 10 years. Female teacher / male student, female teacher gets wrap on knuckles with heavy ruler. And the ruler probably wasn't that heavy.

    The sentences in both cases are absolutely wrong, IMO. Absolutely.

    Poor kid.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 10:53 AM  

  • Like so many of our mandatory sentencing laws this is completely rediculous.

    It's strange how so many states, especially in the South, come up with laws like the one they used on this kid. When somebody who truly brutally rapes a woman could end up doing less time.

    I also find it so strange how our society seems so fixated on the idea of puting 15 to 17 year old kids in prison for long periods of time. As if its some kind of deterrent or will actually make that kid a better person.

    By Blogger Jay, at 10:55 AM  

  • What an awful story. I agree with could 10 years in prison for getting a BJ make a better man in the end? 10 years of GIVING BJs to his jailmates will surely do the real damage.

    As for the girl, it just shows that one doesn't necessarily have to be responsible for one's own actions.


    By Blogger Lee, at 12:43 PM  

  • Actually, I didn't do anything with anyone until I was well into my 20's...but that was because I was sort of a loser. ;)


    By Blogger Steven Novak, at 12:53 PM  

  • I really don't think I would want my kid having sex with anyone, regardless of age, until they are at least in college. That said, what bothered me the most about this story was the fact that two 15-year-old girls were allowed to attend an unchaperoned wild party in a hotel and stay overnight. Their parents clearly have shit for brains. Maybe it's a Cuban thing, but unless it's at an immediate relative's house we don't let our kids sleep outside the home ever. Trust me, my 'rents knew where I was at all times, and this was waaay back in the day before cell phones. Screw the charges against the guys... if that was my daughter, her ass wouldn't have been there in the first place. And if she did do the sneak out thing, damn skippy she would be grounded in her room until her pubes fell out from old age. WTF is wrong with parents nowadays??

    By Blogger Balou, at 2:31 PM  

  • This case is why I could never live in Georgia. Unfortunately, Florida is not much better when it comes to its antiquated Biblically based sex prevention laws.

    Everyone missed the actual crux of the whole thing though--why were these adult bodied people subjected to criminal charges for doing what obviously comes so naturally? (Of course minus the video cameras and stage strobes). If these people were married, would it then be a crime? How about if their parents consented? I don't think there is hardly anyone who writes here who didn't lose their virginity before they were 18. Does that mean we were all backseat criminals?

    Think about this absurdity. The law focuses on the acts of someone who has sex with a minor, but isn't a minior also breaking the same law if they seek to have sex with anyone willingly? I thnk it's called a conspiracy when someone plans to commit a felony. All of these kids should have gone to jail for the same time. The girl catching should have got it as hard as the boy throwing the pitch.

    I have trouble with a system of laws that would essentially make us all criminal. I agree you should prevent your 16 year old daughter from having sex, but only because she has no means of financial support for an unplanned family with an unprepared man. It ain't because she can't physically engage. Our non-religiously hypocritcal reason for keeping kids out of each others pants is avoidance of the social, economic, and psychological trauma that we imagine is the natural outgrowth of breeding among the intellectually immature life ignorant people that make up most teenagers. In that sort of tough-lovey sick way, we victimize them for being objects of sex by slightly older people, intimidate them by stigmatizing the natural sex they do have with their peers, and expect that they, as adults, will hopefully experience the uninhibited, healthy, and guilt-free sex we've all undoubtedly come to enjoy.

    So it is brutally ironic that our efforts to protect kids from our imagined horrors of bad sex actually puts them in the concrete hell of jail--the bad sex capital of the world.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 4:34 PM  

  • I think he's getting the shaft. Stupid sex laws. I'm glad something like that didn't happen to me. I'd have a life sentence.

    By Blogger Kevin, at 11:24 PM  

  • As a parent, I feel able to speak on this one.

    Yes, the boy's treatment was WAY TOO HARSH. After all, he's being punished even more for 'fessing up and being honest.

    Also, in reading current statistics, etc., most teens don't feel as if oral sex is as intimate as regular intercouse. At least a girl can still claim she is a virgin. So in today's teen world, oral sex is seen as the LESSER of the two evils, whereas in the teen world most adults over 40, oral sex was supposedly MORE intimate.

    Poor kid. That sucks.

    By Blogger Tiggerlane, at 11:43 PM  

  • Here's what I'm bothered by after reading the story and the comments. I'm bothered that no one is even mentioning that at the time this occurred he was 17 and she was 15 and at that time in the state of GA sex between a male of his age and a female of hers was considered statutory R-A-P-E.

    If you are going to do the crime then yes my friends, you are going to do the time. It doesn't matter if YOU, your momma or your schoolmates think it is cool, consensual and your fast track to internet stardom ala video like Paris Hilton - the LAW says it is ILLEGAL and therefore you can and will be punished if you get caught.

    Ok, so that is one. Two, I think it is also disturbing that the story and his appeal site points out that Wilson was the only one with a clean record as well as a 3.2 GPA and multiple scholarship offers. So what. Does that mean we should consider him above the law? Why didn't anyone comment on that? Seriously, if he was so smart what was he doing with 5 other guys who had records? Birds of a feather... Not having record doesn't always equal innocence. Not to mention this really smart guy was in a hotel having an orgy while drinking and drugging. WOW. No one commented on that either.

    The whole point I think everyone here is missing is that these consensual state sex laws are put in place because children need to be at least of a certain age to make certain decisions.

    Oh and an FYI on the story:

    In a portion of a tape obtained by "Primetime," Wilson, then 17 and an honor student and star athlete who was homecoming king, is seen having intercourse with a 17-year-old girl, who was seen earlier on the bathroom floor. During the sex act, she appears to be sleepy or intoxicated but never asks Wilson to stop. Later on in the tape, she is seen being pulled off the bed.

    Yeah, I bet it would be kind hard to ask someone to stop having sex with you if you were drugged to that extreme.

    Do I think 10 years is harsh? Not at all, would you if it were your unconscious daughter he was banging on the bathroom floor?

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 1:35 AM  

  • Dayngr, the age issue was mentioned prominently in my post. I even wrote that Georgia law dictated sex acts with a minor under 16 constituted rape and child molestation.

    I feel your passion, but we're talking apples and oranges here...sort of.

    This young man was not convicted of rape or "bangin" anyone on the bathroom floor. He was actually found not guilty of rape by a jury - a verdict that was upheld by a judge and approved of by prosecutors.

    He was convicted of aggravated child molestation for engaging in oral sex with another teenager who told authorities she was sober, wide awake, and hadn't had anything to drink. He was 17. She was 15. The way that law in Georgia is written, he would have still faced conviction even if they'd both been 15-years-old.

    My question was, and remains, is 10 years a fair sentence for what he was convicted "for" - having oral sex with a peer? What he was convicted "of" is a different story. And if we're gonna uphold the law then he got a fair sentence. That doesn't mean we aren't allowed to call that law stupid if we feel that's the case though.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 2:35 AM  

  • I think that sentence was wayyy to harsh. I'm not all up on the laws here in KY, but I'm pretty sure that here, if you are a minor and you have sex, if the person you had sex with it within 5 years of you, even if they are older than 18, they can't be punished for it. I think that's a good idea - it would protect guys like these, who see these girls as peers, while keeping minors from much older people who could be "predators."

    big daddy, I personally do think it's best to "protect" minors from sex. It's not that sex in and of itself is horribly scarring - but the boyfriend I had when I was 15 was no. good. He wasn't a criminal or a murderer, but he treated me like shit and it's a good thing I got out of it when I did. When I was 15, I didn't have the emotional or mental capacity to realize when someone was bad for me, because I had only a very small romantic past at that point. But rest assured, if I had had sex with him, I probably would've held on a lot longer. To let someone inside my body is a big thing. In all relationships where I've had sex, things have changed. And they changed for the better. But I also waited until I was a junior in college to have sex, and by that point I had enough of a past with both short-term and long-term boyfriends to know who was worthy of commiting to. If I had sex when I was 15, I would've let that guy treat me lack crap for a whole lot longer, because I'd be that much more attached to him and that much more committed to him. I do think it's important for people to wait to have sex, only so they can protect themselves and not fall victim to hurtful relationship patterns.

    By Blogger hyacinths and biscuits, at 11:39 PM  

  • That is really sad. I think it's horrible that he should be in jail for that.

    I'd be upset if my 15 year old kid, no matter what gender, were having sex. I think we're in a strange place with sex right now, where young women are crying rape when they make a bad decision (getting drunk/high with a bunch of guys that they are attracted to...easy to forget/regret what you did) and making it a lot harder for those women who are actually raped.

    Do I think it's ok for a guy to take advantage of a woman when she's drunk? No, that is rape if she did not explicitly comply. But if you are hazy on the details, how can you really accuse someone of something like that? Lame.

    By Blogger bc, at 11:47 PM  

  • Did you see the South Park episode where Ike has an affair with his kindergarten teacher? And no one takes it seriously because the older person is a woman? WTF?

    By Blogger bc, at 11:53 PM  

  • This penalty is too harsh. Bad choice, but even worse punishment. I heard his lawyer on the Michael Baisden's Show trying to get his story out and gain support for releasing him. I hope they can salvage what's left of this young man's life. When I was 16, I was involved with a 20-year old. Talk about inappropriate.

    By Blogger katrice, at 7:59 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 11:16 AM  

  • James, you're right, he wasn't convicted for rape though he did have sex with a girl who was so completely and totally out of it that she couldn't have said no if her life depended on it; he was convicted of aggravated child molestation for engaging in oral sex with a minor. It doesn't matter if that minor was two years his junior, or if it was consensual. GA law stated it was a crime punishable by 10 years.

    Karmic justice? Perhaps.

    I didn't see anything to indicate that he would still have been punished if he were a minor as well so, if you have a reference to that info, please point me in that direction.

    You ask, "Is 10 years a fair sentence for what he was convicted "for" - having oral sex with a peer?"

    Well, let me answer your question with a question and keep in mind that GA law at that time stated that a minor is a female 15 and under and males are considered adults at 17.

    Where is the cutoff age for what is to be considered a peer? She was 15, he was 17. If he were 18 would it have been ok because they were peers? What if he were 19, or 20? Where do we set the limit?

    GA law said 15/17 and he got 10 years. Is that fair? Maybe. Maybe not. But it was the law and if you are going to break the law be prepared for what the consequences will be.

    15 is too young for anyone to make rational, logical decisions about sex. Which seems apparent in this case specifically. Seriously, sex with multiple partners of various ages in a hotel room with illegal drugs, alcohol and minors. Does that seem logical or rational? Sure! If you're Andrew Luster.

    My momma used to say, if you are gonna do the crime you better make sure it is damn well worth your time. So, perhaps the real question is - Was that blowjob really worth 10 years?

    I could go on and on but perhaps my thoughts are best left to a post of my own on my blog rather than take up any more space here.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 11:24 AM  

  • Has there ever been any justice in our justice system? Victimless crimes are the ones that get us the most irate, but there is so much more that is just wrong. I don't even want to start on the drug laws in this country. How sad especially considering most actual rapist go scott free because girls are so tramatized they don't press charges.

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