Genarlow Wilson 3: A NY Group Offers $1M Bond

An ad hoc group of eleven NYC businessmen is offering to put up as much as a million dollars to get Wilson out of jail on bond.

A New York City investment fund manager and 10 other businesspeople are offering to put up $1 million in bond money to release Genarlow Wilson from prison pending the appeal in his child molestation case, Wilson’s attorney announced this afternoon.

Whitney Tilson, the founder of T2 Partners and the Tilson Mutual Funds, and the 10 other unnamed contributors are ready to wire the money on Wilson’s behalf on 24 hours notice, said Wilson’s attorney, B.J. Bernstein.

“The goal of this bond is to help a young man in Georgia get his life back,” Tilson, also a founding member of Teach for America, said in a prepared statement Bernstein’s office distributed today.

Basically, Tilson and his group are giving Georgia yet another chance to do the right thing and not be stoopid and/or contemptibly mean assholes. This case has already gone far beyond where it should have – and would have if Wilson was white.

Wilson was tried on the charge and sentenced to 10 years primarily because Barker had a hissy fit when Genarlow wouldn’t take his “deal”. The first judge in the case should have stopped him and convinced him to reduce the charge when testimony made it clear that it was unwarranted, but he didn’t. The jury should have reduced the charge when the testimony they heard didn’t support it, but they didn’t, either.

While Michael Nifong is, in a rare case of prosecutorial discipline, about to lose his license to practice law over the tricks he pulled in the Duke “rape” case, Georgia AG Thurbert Baker is going to the mat to protect Wilson’s prosecutor, Eddie Barker, and his right to persecute a kid who wouldn’t plead out to a charge that would have condemned him as a sex molester for the rest of his life, a charge Barker never should have made in the first place (there was zero evidence supporting a charge that harsh) and a deal that was a travesty the minute it was mentioned. It took an appeal to the Superior Court before someone finally showed a lick of sense and threw out the sentence.

At that point, Baker could have walked away – accepted the Superior Court’s ruling and released Wilson. But he didn’t. Instead, he decided to bring a case that should never have been brought to begin with into the Georgia Supreme Court on the specious ground that the Superior Court judge who threw out the case had “overstepped his authority”.

The difference in the two cases – Duke and Wilson – is stark, not so much in their elements, which are very similar, but in their dispositions. In Sunday’s NYT, Adam Liptak quotes Stephen M. Gillers, a law professor at New York University and the author of “Regulation of Lawyers: Problems of Law and Ethics”on the Duke case.

“If the same case had involved three poor men, instead of defendants with private counsel and families that supported them financially and publicly,” Mr. Gillers continued, “we would not likely see a disbarment, in North Carolina or anywhere. I’d be surprised if there were even serious discipline.”

That’s precisely what we’re seeing play out in Georgia except that Gillers should have added “black” to his hypothetical and that there is not only no discipline being considered in Georgia, the state’s AG is pursuing the case to cover an arrogant prosecutor’s ass despite nationwide publicity that is making both him and his state look like a bunch of racist, dictatorial hicks. His excuse – that he had no choice (“It is my responsibility to follow the laws of Georgia as they are written, not how some may wish they were written.”) – is the last-ditch stand of a desperate prosecutor who doesn’t otherwise have a case.

The notion that prosecutors have no choice but to follow the letter of the law is the rankest kind of BS PR spin. It is so far from the everyday truth as to beggar description. In Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, Radley Balko, in a classic bit of understatement, calls the claim “not entirely honest”. You can say that twice.

Prosecutors have enormous discretion in when and how and against whom they bring charges. They can overcharge and pressure the defendant to plea bargain. They can undercharge if they feel there are mitigating circumstances associated with the crime. Or they can determine that despite the fact that a crime has been committed, in the interest of justice, charges ought not be brought at all.

What’s more, every prosecutor’s office battles with limited resources. A prosecutor can’t possibly enforce each law against each person who breaks it. So prosecutors set priorities. And in choosing which laws they will enforce vigorously and which laws they will let slide, they make public policy.

Picking and choosing is, in fact, half the job of being a prosecutor. They do it dozens of times a day, every day, with every single case that’s brought to them. The pretense that they have no discretion is laughable on its face. Prosecutors, DA’s, even AG’s are often chosen, promoted, and/or elected on the basis of how they make those decisions, so at best Baker’s excuse is sophistry. At worst, it’s self-serving crap.

Baker and Barker between them are about to put Georgia’s justice system in the same appalling league with that of Texas.

When told that he had secured the death penalty against an innocent man, a Texas prosecutor once reportedly boasted that “any prosecutor can convict a guilty man; it takes a great prosecutor to convict an innocent man.”

No, actually it doesn’t, but it does apparently take a great prosecutor to resist the temptation to make his reputation with harsh charges against poor, black men whose families don’t have the resources to fight him.

(Secondary links via Norwegianity)

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