A New York-based investment manager and 10 other business leaders are going to post a $1 million (740,000 EUR) bond to free a man serving a 10 year prison sentence in Georgia for having consensual oral sex with a girl when they were both teens.
But, the District Attorney in the case said the man is not eligible for the bond.
The offer is the latest development in Genarlow Wilson's fight to leave prison - a legal battle in which critics, including former President Jimmy Carter and Georgia lawmakers, have weighed in with their outrage at the sentence.
A judge recently ordered that Wilson be freed, but Georgia's attorney general appealed and the man remains jailed while the issue is addressed in the courts.
"I've never met Genarlow Wilson, but from everything I've read about him he seems like a fine young man who was on track to overcome enormous obstacles in his life, but that was ruined by a night of youthful foolishness," investment manager Whitney Tilson told The Associated Press.
But Douglas County District Attorney David McDade said Monday that Wilson is not eligible for an appellate bond because he was convicted of one of the so-called "seven deadly sins" under Georgia law.
"The law is clear that the judge can't grant bond," he said.
Wilson, now 21, was convicted of aggravated child molestation stemming from a 2003 New Year's Eve Party where he was captured on videotape receiving oral sex from a 15-year-old girl. He was 17 at the time. He is now serving a mandatory 10-year prison sentence.
Wilson was also charged with raping a second 17-year-old girl at the party. A jury acquitted him if the rape charge.
In 2006, Georgia lawmakers changed the law Wilson was sentenced under but the state's top court said it could not be applied retroactively.
Earlier this month, a Monroe County Superior Court judge called Wilson's sentence "a grave miscarriage of justice" and said Wilson should be released. The state attorney general is appealing that decision, saying it could free more than 1,000 child molesters in Georgia's prisons. The state Supreme Court is set to hear the case, but a date has not been set yet.
Tilson, who was reached by The Associated Press on a family trip in Sweden, said he pledged $100,000 (74,000 EUR) and then called 20 friends. Ten agreed to help.
Only one other person - John Schwartz, who founded Value Investing Congress with Tilson - agreed to go public. The others have chosen to remain anonymous. Tilson said they are businesspeople, entrepreneurs and money managers who live in California, New York, Texas and Massachusetts.
Tilson, who helped start Teach for America in 1989, said Wilson's plight resonated with him immediately.
"I think I thought what many men would think when we look back at our teenage years and think about what would happen if the worst, most embarrassing thing we've done was captured on videotape," he said. "There's a feeling of 'there but for the grace of God go I."'
The state Supreme Court is set to hear Wilson's appeal in the fall.
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