This young man gets my respect for standing up for his rights and fighting for his justice. He spoke with Essence.com about his fight for justice and his future.
Genarlow Wilson spent New Year's Eve 2003 at a wild hotel bash with a group of fellow teens in Atlanta. After the party which involved sex, alcohol and a notorious videotape he and five other boys were charged with child molestation under a Georgia law that made having oral sex with anyone under 16 a felony. (Since then, the law has been repealed.) Wilson, then 17, had engaged in consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl.
Refusing to take a plea deal and be branded a sex offender for life, the honor student and star athlete was slapped with a ten-year prison sentence. He served two years behind bars. On Friday, October 26, hours after the Georgia Supreme Court said his sentence was too harsh, Wilson, now 21, walked out of prison and into the arms of his family.
Here are a few snippets of his first print interview:
ESSENCE.COM: Why were you so intent in fighting your sentence, instead of just taking a plea deal like the other young men did?
WILSON: I couldn't allow myself to be portrayed and be cast aside as a sex offender. I love and adore my little sister, and I want to have kids of my own someday, and as a sex offender you can't be around little kids.
ESSENCE.COM: What's next for you?
WILSON: I'm definitely looking forward to going to college. I want to try to get in as soon as possibleI hope by January, but if not, whenever I can get in and wherever I can go I'll just be grateful for it. I want to major in sociology. I feel like I would fit perfectly in that area just because of my experience and what I've been through.
ESSENCE: Do you feel that your two years in prison was worth making a point and avoiding that label?
WILSON: Yes. And I'm glad that no one else will have to go through what I went through. Maybe one day I might have prevented my son or my nephews or somebody else from getting caught up in a similar situation.
ESSENCE: What was prison like for you? How did the other prisoners treat you?
WILSON: I had a lot of support. But just like you have a lot of support, you always have people against you as well that don't want to see you do good because they're in a bad situation.