DOUGLAS, Ga. -- Under the threat of a thunderstorm, about 2,000 marchers took to the streets in Douglas County on Saturday in support of a man being held in prison for having consensual oral sex when he was a teenager, despite a judge's ruling that he should be freed.
The group, led by the NAACP, marched from Douglasville High School to the county courthouse, chanting "Free Genarlow Wilson" and singing civil rights songs.
Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation for having oral sex with a 15-year-old girl when he was 17. He has served more than two years of a mandatory 10-year sentence.
Attorney General Thurbert Baker is appealing a Monroe County Superior Court judge's decision to reduce Wilson's felony conviction to a misdemeanor and free him from prison.
Baker said the judge overstepped his authority when he granted Wilson's motion last month.
Wilson's attorney is arguing his 10-year prison sentence is cruel and unusual punishment.
Speakers denounced Baker and Douglas County District Attorney David McDade, whose office convicted Wilson. The U.S. attorney's office said McDade violated federal law when he distributed a videotape from a rape and child molestation case to legislators and journalists. McDade is under fire for handing out copies of the video of the teenagers having sex at a party which was used as evidence in the case.
McDade said Georgia's open-records law left him no choice but to release the footage because it was evidence in the trial of Wilson.
But McDade's actions have opened him up to accusations that he is vindictively misusing his authority to keep Wilson behind bars -- and worse, distributing child pornography.
"This has been a ferocious, vindictive prosecution of Genarlow Wilson," said state Sen. Vincent Fort, an Atlanta Democrat. "What is going on is a vendetta."
He has said that while the law required him to release the video, he also believes the footage helps his case -- by showing that Wilson is not the squeaky-clean football star and honor student portrayed by his supporters.
"Most of those who do not want people to see the tape know that it's damning to their position," McDade told The Associated Press.
He released the video after receiving an open records request from the AP, and said he has given it to about three dozen people, including reporters, lawmakers and several members of the public who requested it.
It shows Wilson, then 17, receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl and having intercourse with another 17-year-old girl. It was shot at a 2003 New Year's Eve Party at a hotel room by another partygoer.
Earlier this week, Georgia's chief federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias, said the video "constitutes child pornography under federal law," and he called on McDade's office to stop releasing copies.
The law Wilson was convicted of breaking made consensual oral sex between teens a felony. It has since been changed by the Georgia Legislature, but the state's courts have held that the new law cannot be applied retroactively.
Wilson's case will be heard by the Georgia Supreme Court on July 20.
--The Associated Press