Jubilation turned to anger Monday after Georgia's top prosecutor vowed he would fight a judge's order that would have set free Genarlow Wilson, a Georgia man serving a 10-year prison sentence for a consensual sexual encounter he had as a teenager.
Wilson's attorney, B.J. Bernstein, said her client would not accept a proposed plea bargain that would get him out of prison because it would require Wilson to plead guilty to a felony.
A judge ruled Monday that his conduct should have been punished as a misdemeanor.
"We're going to keep fighting," Bernstein told reporters at a news conference at the state Capitol.
This is a very tricky case and you have to avoid the temptation of making a simplistic judgment on it.
First and foremost, 15-year-olds shouldn't be having sex. Seventeen-year-olds probably shouldn't either. And having the sort of promiscuous sex that was taking place at this party is playing with fire as well, so there was nothing good about any of it.
The question becomes how bad was it.
It's a sad fact that kids are growing up faster than they used to. A couple generations ago, a 15-YO having sex would have been way outside the norm, but today, it's moving closer and closer to the average age at which people become sexually active. That's not an excuse, though. She should have known better and he should have had more respect for her than to do what he did.
But I don't believe it's something so serious that it deserves ten years in prison. Since there was consent of a sort -- though not LEGAL consent -- it seems to me that there needs to be a reasonable punishment which includes large doses of education about responsible sexual behavior. I think that spending the summer on a work detail and mandatory sex-ed would be about right.
And the girl should be educated as well. Our society has sexualized young people to an obscene degree. We need a systematic program to let kids know that sex is something that changes your life forever, and is not something that should just be expected of someone at any age, and certainly not someone who is 15 years old.
This sort of thing is a part of a responsible program of sex education. You cannot teach "just say no," you need to teach why it's best to wait for a mutually-monogamous long-term relationship to have sex so that kids will be ready to deal with the hormones and the peer pressure.
And I hope that this current media sensation leads to serious discussions on teen sexuality in general.
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