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The Daily Whim

The Daily Whim

Mon. Jun 11, 2007

Shame on the Georgia Attorney General

You probably saw the jubilation on CNN today, as Genarlow Wilson’s mother and his lawyer, B.J. Bernstein, celebrated a judge’s ruling that voided his sentence, complete with a release order. It was quite a moment of joy for many.

Until my state stepped in:

But the state attorney general quickly filed a notice of appeal, keeping Genarlow Wilson in prison for the time being.

In a written statement, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker said he filed the appeal to resolve “clearly erroneous legal issues,” saying that while the judge did have the authority to grant habeas relief, he did not have the authority “to reduce or modify the judgment of the trial court.”

Thurbert, if your name’s going to be on the ballot in November, 2008, you can expect me to vote for Mickey Mouse before I’ll vote to re-elect you. Of course, you did have some help from our State Legislature:

When he was 17 years old, he had a consensual sexual encounter with a 15-year-old girl, which was consensually videotaped.

Georgia law at the time made such an action a felony punishable by 10 years in prison and listing on the sex offender registry.

The state legislature later changed the law, partly in response to Wilson’s case. But the change was not made retroactive, leaving Wilson in jail. He has already served more than two years.

Remember when you were 17? I bet you probably had sex. Probably with a fellow teen. Remember when you were 19? Now wipe out everything in between, and imagine if you’d spent that formative time incarcerated. Hasn’t society taken enough from this man as “payment” for his “crime”?

And as for “partly in response,” that bill would have never made it to the floor of the House or Senate if not for Wilson’s specific case, and the attention many tried to bring to it. It was “directly in response.” The fact it was passed is an acknowledgement that the previous law was not fair in the way it was enforced. But they did not have the cojones to make it retroactive … as if the old law was any more “fair” for those who’d been sentenced under it in the past.

So the Douglas County DA made sure to point out that the legislature could have made it retroactive, but chose not to, and therefore it was full steam ahead. By Gum, this kid was going to stay in jail until the age of 27, for having consensual sex with a fellow teen at the age of 17. Or agree to their plea terms. Until this morning’s court ruling.

Now our state AG says the letter of the law has still has not been followed, and as a result Mr. Wilson may have to remain in jail.

Whatever happened to the spirit of the law? The judge seemed to recognize it this morning. But there’s at least a couple of prosecutors in this state who won’t bend their “letter” to that “spirit,” once again making our state appear to be a laughing stock of backwardness.

Have you ever noticed it is only the actions of our elected officials that make Georgia the butt of jokes? Not the actions of the citizens themselves?

For shame.

I believe Governor Sonny Perdue has the power to issue a pardon for this specific case. I could be wrong, as one wonders why he hasn’t before. But now is the time for someone to show there are still reasonable human beings involved in this process, on the side of the state.

Today, there is no such sign.

Update, 6/13: The Governor’s office claims that he has no authority to grant a pardon (I would simply note that Pres. Bush has no authority to pass the immigration bill, but he’s lobbying hard with those who do). A (cursory) review of Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles web site reveals no obvious option for timely relief from that route as well. Apparently there is simply no one in the employ of the state of Georgia who can or will do a damn thing to correct this injustice.


Peanut Gallery

1  Steve Thompson wrote:

That Attorney General is a crackpot. Wasting taxpayer time and money on this kind of nonsense when he should be doing something of value with his life and position. What a sad state of affairs to know creeps like this are in high public office. He isn’t happy that the young guy’s life was ruined for a teenage decision, he wants him to pay for it to the full extent of the dead law. Thank God there is a God who remembers the freaks in our world who don’t know mercy.

Comment by Steve Thompson · 06/12/2007 06:07 AM
2  emcee fleshy wrote:

Hey, Thurbert Baker might be totally and indefensibly wrong on this issue.

And he might indeed have the worst toupee you will ever see.

But he’s generally a decent human being.

3  egalia wrote:

What an outrage. I guess the state of Georgia doesn’t give a damn what the world thinks about it. What next? Stoning kids who have sex?

We have idiots for lawmakers/enforcers in my state too, but Georgia is doing a fine job of making the rest of the South look like utopia.

4  Greg Greene wrote:

Is there any way we can have a vote of no confidence in the state’s entire elected leadership, right through the least senior member representative in the lege? When can we start?

5  Reid wrote:

Well, Greg, I suggest we start at the top. Sonny Perdue is up for re-election, and as of this morning has said nothing about this case.

He’s apparently busy praying for rain. And Lord knows we need it, but I believe the Governor could apply himself to this case much more effectively than as a rainmaker. Leave that to Burt Lancaster.

6  Reid wrote:

OK, I’ve done my “official” bit as a voter and Georgian. I’ve sent the following to Governor Sonny Perdue

It is time for someone working for the state to show there are human beings in our justice system, humans with both common sense and compassion.

It is time for at least one elected official to do something on the Genarlow Wilson case that does not make Georgia look like a laughing stock of backwardness to the rest of the country.

And, Governor, in the Genarlow Wilson case, it looks like you’re the last one left who can do that. But your silence on this matter is troubling.

Did you see the jubilation yesterday when false hope was first given that Mr. Wilson’s might find some final “justice”?

You can recreate that in a lasting manner. Issue a pardon today. It is the right and just thing to do.

Here’s the form I used to send it. It adds “If this is an urgent or time-sensitive matter, please call us directly at 404-656-1776.”

7  Cynthia Carley wrote:

Thank you for listing that form to contact the governor with. I was all over their sites trying to find an email for Baker, but he (conveniently) doesn’t list one. I’m sending a letter now!

8  Jean Wallin wrote:

I cannot see how keeping this young man in prison or forcing him to register as a sex offender protects or improves citizens in Georgia. A judge has said “let him out” and all it takes is the head of the executive branch, Governor Perdue, telling the attorney general to let it go at that.

9  Reid wrote:

As I noted in the update above, the Governor’s office claims he has no power to pardon, and he has certainly had zip to say about the case in public. So one would assume he hasn’t been lobbying anyone in private, either.

10  Susan Stott wrote:

Well there is ONE person showing some common sense in this state. Rep. John Lewis is quoted in the AJC today saying: “This young man is still behind bars….It is a shame. It is a disgrace. It is an embarrassment”

Mr. John Lewis – you have my support and I applaude you! Now can you and Sonny take Therbert behind the barn and “shake” some sense in him?

Susan

11  emcee fleshy wrote:

Not likely, Susan. Sonny and Thurbert aren’t exactly buddies.

12  Susan Stott wrote:

I know but I would sure like a ticket for the show. I’ve had a little fun with my daily calls to Thurbert – I left my phone number, I just can’t figure out why my phone isn’t ringing.

The Congressional investigation is a sweet little twist. Seems we got federal investigations going on all over in and through the Atlanta and GA govt.

Susan

13  emcee fleshy wrote:

At least tell me Mayor Franklin is still clean. I was hoping to recruit her out here to San Diego after she’s restored Atlanta to what the neocons might call “an acceptable level of corruption.” (There are limits to how much you can clean up any local government)

Also, I just noticed that surname. I should probably address the First Lady with a more respectful honorific. Apologies, Dear Madame.

14  Reid wrote:

Sir Fleshy: “At least tell me Mayor Franklin is still clean.”

Oh, sure. No problems there.

Let’s see, a federal investigation of the mayor’s daughter, a federal investigation of the sheriff’s department and their highly active shredding machines, a federal investigation of the Atlanta Police Department initiated by the death of Kathryn Johnston…

Yep, no problems in Atlanta at all.

“I should probably address the First Lady with a more respectful honorific.”

Please, don’t spoil The Wife.

15  emcee fleshy wrote:

I can’t lay the Sheriff and APD at Mayor Franklin’s feet. The Sheriff is a separate elected official – which I recall vividly from a dust-up involving Bill Campbell a while back. And the APD has been an unmitigated disaster ever since I can remember. Face it – when you try to address corruption by hiring the the chief of the New Orleans police department, that’s a serious admission that you’ve got issues.

The Daughter thing – I don’t know much about her daughter, so I read your two links. I see absolutely nothing in either of those articles that goes back to the Mayor. Yes, bad luck and a daughter that could have better taste in men, but neither article even hints at any accusation of impropriety against Mayor Franklin.

16  Reid wrote:

Oh, I wasn’t blaming everything on Mayor Franklin. I was just pointing out that citizens of Atlanta have so many investigations to track these days where the feds have had to step in for one reason or another.

As for the two links I gave about the mayor’s daughter, they were the first two I grabbed from a search. There has been some editorializing at CL about how the mayor’s office may have done this or that to keep the case quiet, but there’s no evidence of anything.

Just a federal investigation.

But given the world of elected officials to be upset with, and given that her predecessor wears an orange jumpsuit as we speak, Mayor Franklin is not one of my worries.

17  emcee fleshy wrote:

Ahhh, her predecessor. Funny thing about corruption – makes you even madder if you voted for the SOB twice.

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