Recently I did a post on Genarlow Wilson, the Georgia teen who is serving a ten year prison sentence and facing a lifetime as a registered sex offender because he engaged in sexual activity with a girl from the same high school he went to. The Georgia legislature, embarrassed by Wilson's case, passed a new sex offender law that makes it a misdemeanor, rather than a felony when two minors have sexual relations with each other-- but Wilson is still in prison because he was convicted under the old law and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker is resisting a judicial order to let him go.
Well, I'm sure you remember the old saying about when the 'sh*t hits the fan?' Apparently it has now.
Douglas County District Attorney David McDade has now sent out copies of a pornographic tape shot at a party and used in prosecuting Wilson, which shows several teenage girls (including their faces) as well as Wilson and shows graphic video of teenage sex. He has released it to dozens of media members, organizations and individuals, claiming he was doing it under the state's open records act.
Federal authorities are now saying that McDade may have violated Federal pornography laws by sending the tape out.
McDade, an ally of Baker in keeping Wilson behind bars and serving in the office in which the original case was brought forward, said that the state's open records act left him no choice. But that isn't so, according to Federal authorities:
David Nahmias, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, said earlier this week: "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."
Nahmias said Tuesday that federal laws prohibiting the distribution or possession of child pornography "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. ... These federal laws trump any contrary requirement of the state's open records act that may exist."
It seems that in their zest to make Genarlow Wilson an example to deter teenagers from engaging in sexual activity, the Georgia authorities may have themselves been willing to commit felonies. And as prosecutors themselves, there is little doubt that they knew what Federal law was on the subject, even before Nahmias advised them that he considered the tape to be child pornography. And they did it anyway.
If you or I knowingly had in our possession and mailed out copies of a tape that depicted teenagers, with their identities not in the least disguised, engaged in sexual acts, then we would go to prison, probably for decades, and then have to register as sex offenders when we got out. But here we have law enforcement authorities doing the same thing, all in their zeal to defend their original actions in seeking such a harsh sentence for Wilson.
Genarlow Wilson should never have faced felony charges and should not have to register as a sex offender. But maybe those who have prosecuted him, especially David McDade, should.