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From Facing 10 Years To Surviving 4 At Morehouse: Overcoming Adversity

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In 2012, a cry of emotions from a graduation ceremony has more memories in its wails than the sights from the stars.  In 2006, the cry was a very different one; one of a public cry of outrage when 20-year-old Genarlow Wilson was convicted of 10 years to prison.


During the previous 3 years, he and his lawyers had been awaiting trial for an incident that went from a fun, celebratory night to a frightening twist of events.  In 2003, Wilson was a 17-year-old High School senior phenom; as an honor student, the football team’s superstar and homecoming king, he was slated to attend one of many scouting Ivy League schools.  But that all quickly changed when he attended a party that would seemingly change his life forever.

Genarlow Wilson and a group of friends had the kind of bash no parent would want their teenager to attend. Crime scene investigators combing the room in a Days Inn in the small town of Douglasville, Ga., found evidence of drinking, as well as condoms and wrappers littered all over. Plus, there was a video camera. – ABC

On this videotape, Wilson was seen having sexual encounters with two girls.  The first was intercourse with a 17-year-old girl.  And the second, he received consensual oral sex from a 15-year-old, who contested that she had not drunk that night.

But matters turned for the worst when the 17-year-old came out charging all six of the boys with rape.  Obviously intoxicated on the video, prosecutors initially believed her story; although there were no signs of force or struggle on the video.

Five of the boys accepted plea deals, having to openly admit to committing the act, out of fear that their sentences could be worse while declaring their innocence.  But Wilson did not.  He remained that he was not guilty, and refused to take a plea off of a lie.  His trial stood for 5 days.  And after quick deliberations and a viewing of the tape, he was acquitted of the rape charge.

All seemed fair.  That was until the jury had to decide on the second charge– of oral sex.  Although it was consensual, and the girl was not pressing charges, it was Georgia law that anyone under the age of 16 did not have legal rights to consensual sex.  And so he was charged with child molestation, and a felony.  He was given 10 years in prison for engaging in sexual acts with a 15-year-old as a 17-year-old.

An old Georgia law considered that child molestation and a felony, carrying 10 years in prison since the girl was under 16. Through a quirk in the law, had they had intercourse he would have only faced a year in jail. – TWU

But the fight didn’t end there.  Political contesters from Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson alongside former President Jimmy Carter.  While they got the law to change to a punishable misdemeanor, it was not set up to correct his sentencing.  In the front of the Georgia Supreme Court, Wilson was freed under the grounds of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

And today, he proudly stands as a graduate from Georgia’s Morehouse College.  Having spent two years in jail from an unlucky twist of fate, the system’s wrongs were corrected and he took the initiative to prove to himself that he was worth more than another story in the injustice file.  Genarlow Wilson can be an inspiration to anyone who has made a few unhealthy or unwise decisions, not belonging to any age, gender or race.  Change is possible if you believe and do the work to achieve.

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