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Georgia sex offender registry- Over 16,000 stories for each crime

Katie Beasley, News 12 First at Five, November 18, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Wendy Whitaker, she's the Harlem women arrested and charged with having consensual sex. Wendy was forced to register as a sex offender, even though not all sex offenders can be put into the same category. Wendy is one of over 16,000 people on Georgia's sex offender registry. One of over 16,000 stories to go along with each crime.

This is Wendy Whitaker -- she's one of thousands on the Georgia sex offender registry. Wendy had consensual oral sex with a classmate. She was seventeen, he was fifteen. That crime, from twelve years ago, has her being forced to move from her Harlem home because of Georgia's residency restrictions.

Richmond County Investigator Ron Sylvester says that's the way the law works.

"Without there being a court order or something removing them from the registry then they're on it for life," says Sylvester.

This is Jeffery York -- he's on the registry because of a similar situation. Like Wendy, Jeffery was also charged with sodomy for having oral sex with a classmate. He was also seventeen, his classmate was fifteen. Another similarity between Wendy and Jeffery is that if they had committed their crime today, they wouldn't be on this list.

"Under those changes there are people who are on the registry now that if they were charged after 2006 would not have been on the registry," explains Investigator Sylvester.

This is Genarlow Wilson -- in 2003 he also had consensual oral sex with a classmate, the whole thing captured on tape at a New Years Eve party. Again, Genarlow was seventeen, the girl only fifteen. He was charged with aggravated child molestation and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He's not on this registry because in 2007 the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that sex between teens is not the same as adults who prey on children.

And despite the fact that some sex offenders feel wronged. The registry does keep track of people classified as violent predators.

"Better to have it than not have it. And it does serve the right purpose when done the right way," says Investigator Sylvester.

News 12 talked with Wendy Whitaker's attorney with the Southern Center for Human Rights. She said they are continuing to work with Wendy to keep her in her home. They have not filed an appeal to last week's federal ruling that she must move because of those residency restrictions. But she will remain on the sex offender registry for the rest of her life.

The main difference in the Wilson case that was overturned, and the Whitaker case is how they were charged. Whitaker plead guilty to sodomy and served five years probation. Wilson was charged with aggravated child molestation and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a harsher punishment, but only served three because his case was overturned.

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