Now that he has been set free, Genarlow Wilson, a young man who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for having consensual oral sex with another teenager, said he wants to pursue a college degree in either sociology or business.
Speaking Sunday after a visit to Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Wilson also said he wants to be a role model to his 9-year-old sister and other young people, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper reported.
"It would be good to get in anywhere and pursue my education," Wilson said, flanked by family members. "I just want to thank everyone. It feels real good to be free."
Two days after his release from prison, Wilson went to Ebenezer's 11 a.m. service to thank the church for its support. He received a standing ovation.
Dressed in khaki pants, a yellow dress shirt and a tie, Wilson seemed nervous as he stood in an aisle and addressed the packed church.
"No words really can explain how thankful me and my family are," he said. "The Bible says there's a time and season for everything. I guess that time finally came."
The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, Ebenezer Baptist Church's pastor who was among those who worked for Wilson's release, criticized a system he called "more criminal than just" and also the prison-industrial complex he described as a new form of slavery.
Wilson's case "should have never entered the venue of the criminal justice system in the first place," Warnock said.
Wilson was freed Friday, hours after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 split vote that his 10-year sentence for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl amounted to "cruel and unusual punishment." Wilson was 17 at the time.
The justices also said Wilson's sentence made "no measurable contribution to acceptable goals of punishment," and his crime did not rise to the "level of adults who prey on children."
Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation following a 2003 New Year's Eve party in a hotel room where he was videotaped having oral sex with the girl.
His case led to widespread protests of heavy handed justice. His supporters said race was one reason he received such a severe sentence, noting that he and the girl - both black - were only two years apart.
After he was imprisoned, Wilson became the subject of prominent editorials and national news broadcasts. His sentence was denounced even by members of the jury that convicted him and the author of the 1995 law that put him in prison.
Supporters, including former President Jimmy Carter, said the case raised troubling questions about race and the justice system.
The 1995 law Wilson violated was changed in 2006 to make oral sex between teens close in age a misdemeanor, similar to the law regarding teen sexual intercourse.
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