Though defenders of six Douglasville teens facing years in prison for having consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl are drawing comparisons to the Marcus Dixon case, a teen athlete whose case fell under the same law that one of the teens currently faces, an attorney who worked on Dixon’s behalf says the circumstances are different.
The six Douglasville teenagers –- all aged 17- and 18-years-old -– said they had consensual sex with a 15-year-old female classmate. The girl testified in court the sex was consensual. A video allegedly taped at a party shows the teens receiving oral sex from the girl.
Five of the teens pleaded guilty to sexual assault and are serving sentences of five years in prison.
One of the teens, Genarlow Wilson, pleaded not guilty, but was later found guilty of aggravated child molestation and faces a mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison.
The Dixon case also involved a 15-year-old girl. Dixon maintained the sex was consensual. Prosecutors in the case said Dixon forced himself on the girl.
Although he was acquitted of rape, the jury convicted him of aggravated child molestation, one of Georgia's "seven deadly sins" crimes that come with a minimum decade-long sentence.
The Georgia Supreme Court overturned Dixon’s conviction in 2004 and released him.
The difference between the Dixon and Wilson case, according to David Balser, one of Dixon’s attorneys, is the type of sex involved.
Wilson was convicted of engaging in oral sex, whereas Dixon’s case involved intercourse. Because oral sex falls under the Georgia sodomy law, Wilson’s case is different Balser said.
“The judge’s hands are tied, there’s nothing he can do,” Balser said.
"Parents beware, your children face a mandatory 10 year minimum prison sentence if they engage in consensual oral sex in georgia, but not, if they engage in consensual sexual intercourse, does that seem right to you?" Balser said.
Marie Manigault, the foreman of the jury that convicted Wilson, voiced her outrage at a rally Tuesday night. “This law was not created for teen on teens, it was created for men who are perverts going after young children,” she said.
State Sen. Vincent Fort, a Democrat, is trying to change the law. If a bill he is working on were to become law, “The judge would have the discretion to give the perpetrator as little as one year in jail, not 10 years,” Fort said.
“Even though it may not be politically popular,” Balser said. “They've gotta do what's right and fix this law.”
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday in Douglas County. A prayer vigil is also scheduled for 8 a.m. that morning in front of the courthouse