Billy Merck here, once again filling in for Lat while he squeezes out some more vacation before the summer gets away from us. We’ll be here today and Laurie Lin will be here tomorrow; Lat’s back next week.
We start today with an update on a case from Georgia with which you’re all probably at least a little familiar. We reported earlier here on the case of Genarlow Wilson, the Georgia man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17 years old. The Georgia statute under which he was convicted has since been amended to make the same offense a misdemeanor, but the change was not made retroactive to Wilson’s case.
On June 11, Wilson’s habeas corpus petition was granted on the basis that the 10-year sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment; as a result Wilson’s offense was changed to a misdemeanor, he was given credit for the more than two years already served in jail, and he would no longer have to register as a sex offender. Attorney General Thurbert Baker has appealed this decision, drawing criticism from many who question the need to keep Wilson in jail any longer than he has already been there.
Which leads us to the new part of the story. Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, who prosecuted the case against Wilson, has been there every step of the way to ensure not only that Wilson went to jail, but that he stayed there. When the state legislature considered bills last year and this year that would have amended the statute again to make it apply retroactively to Wilson’s case, McDade was there lobbying against the bills.
And evidently, as part of his efforts, McDade has made available to legislators and seemingly anyone else who wanted one copies of the videtape of the sexual encounter that got Wilson convicted. Many in Georgia have begun to question why McDade has been so free with the distribution of the tape, particularly since the distribution, receipt, and possession of it appears to violate Georgia and federal law.
More on McDade’s Nifong-like behavior after the jump.
Attorney general: Wilson ruling could free molesters [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Wilson’s legal tactics challenged[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
Judge says no bond for Genarlow Wilson, cancels hearing[Fulton County Daily Report]
Sharpton embraces relatives at rally for Gernarlow Wilson[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
State Supreme Court moves up Genarlow Wilson hearing[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
U.S. Attorney David Nahmias in Atlanta said Wednesday that:
federal law prohibits the distribution of the Genarlow Wilson videotape because it depicts minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He warned that people who had received it would be in violation of federal child pornography laws.
“These laws are intended to protect the children depicted in such images from the ongoing victimization of having their sexual activity viewed by others, potentially for years to come, particularly if the images are placed on the Internet or otherwise broadly enter the public domain,” Nahmias said.
“Accordingly, we have advised that the videotape at issue constitutes child pornography under federal law and should not be knowingly distributed, received, or possessed outside of law enforcement and judicial proceedings.”
U.S. Attorney: Distributing Genarlow Wilson tape violates law[Atlanta Journal Constitution]
McDade (pictured at right), for his part, claims to be required to distribute the tape under Georgia’s Open Records Act. But Nahmias says that federal law trumps any contrary requirements under state law.
Ironically, McDade did not have the same slavish adherence to the Open Records Act when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested a copy of an audiotape of an interview by Douglas County prosecutors of Wilson’s mother, in which the prosecutors allegedly tried to intimidate her regarding comments she had made about the case. He refused the request, though he later gave the tape to the Fulton County Daily Report.
McDade has consistently displayed the win-at-all-cost attitude throughout this case that ultimately cost Michael Nifong his job and bar license (and perhaps criminal sanctions). Will it cost him as much as it costed Nifong?
From one perspective, McDade’s actions are less of a concern; at least he did actually get a conviction, even if not one for rape (rape charges were included, but the jury acquitted Wilson of those charges). However, McDade has been no less of a crusading loose cannon, even going so far as to tell legislators whom he was lobbying on the retroactivity bills that Wilson had raped his victims, even though the jury had specifically acquitted Wilson of doing so. And of course, there is a much stronger case that what McDade has done in widely distributing the sex tapes is an actual crime.
On a positive note for Wilson, the Georgia Supreme Court has reversed its earlier decision not to expedite the appeal in the case, and a hearing is set on both the denial of appeal bond and the habeas appeal itself on July 20 at 10:00 a.m.