The mother of a then-15-year-old girl in a highly publicized teen sex case told a newspaper that the boy involved should not have been criminally charged, but she changed her statement a day later after a visit from prosecutors, the newspaper said Thursday.
Lawyer B.J. Bernstein, who represents the young man, Genarlow Wilson, called the prosecution's visit "pure intimidation."
She said the mother's interview had made clear that the New Year's Eve party encounter between Wilson, then 17, and the 15-year-old girl "was definitely a consensual act."
Wilson was convicted of aggravated child molestation and — based on a law that has since been changed — was sentenced to a mandatory 10 years in prison. That sentence drew widespread criticism as grossly disproportionate to the crime, and a judge on Monday, calling it a "grave miscarriage of justice," ordered Wilson released. But Wilson, now 21, is still behind bars because the state attorney general is appealing the decision.
In an interview Tuesday, the girl's mother told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her daughter had told her the videotaped sex acts were consensual. The mother also said she regretted that she didn't ask prosecutors not to charge Wilson and four other boys at the party.
"She did not want any of this to happen," the mother said. "I felt like Douglas County was trying to make an example out of these boys."
Called paper with prosecutor at side
The day after that interview, the mother spoke to the Journal-Constitution again, saying she was worried that she might be misquoted. She said Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barker was at her home with an audio recorder to discuss what she had said.
Douglas County District Attorney David McDade later disclosed that his office had taped the woman's second conversation, the newspaper reported.
"We were actually at her home when you were talking to her (Wednesday) morning," McDade said, according to the paper. "We were recording the conversation and so we have a tape of her telling you that you were twisting her words."
Bernstein said Thursday that "it was something that almost reminds us of what happens in a Communist country, that when you speak out about something to the media, you get a visit from the government."
Messages left Thursday with McDade's office seeking further comment were not immediately returned.
Barker, the assistant district attorney, told the paper: "Never once did she ever ask us not to prosecute this case."
Mom said she was pressured
In the initial interview on Tuesday, the mother told the newspaper that before Wilson's trial, Barker had told her that if she didn't assist the prosecution, she could face legal trouble for "neglect" as a parent. Barker denied that assertion, the newspaper said.
On Wednesday, the mother said that Barker had not been "threatening" her but rather giving her advice.
The AP is not naming the mother to protect the identity of the girl, who is considered a sex crime victim.
The girl, now 18, declined a request for an interview. The mother said the young woman had since joined the military to pursue a career in nursing.
"She is trying to put it all behind her," the mother said. "She does not want to come back to Douglasville because it is still a touchy subject. She still deals with it every day."