Authorities believed the 17-year-old accuser and said she was too intoxicated to consent to any sexual acts, which is what Georgia law requires. Otherwise these acts can be considered rape.
Six boys, including Wilson, were arrested on various charges, including rape. District Attorney David McDade said the videotape was critical to his case. "There is no doubt that without the videotape we would have to be relying on the statements of these young people, and that would have been a more difficult prosecution," he said.
Wilson maintained his innocence. "I know that it was consensual," he told "Primetime." "I wouldn't [have] went on with the acts if it wasn't consensual. I'm not that kind of person. No means no."
Five of the boys accepted plea deals, but Wilson -- the only one without a police record -- held out. "I knew Genarlow's state of mind," said his attorney, Michael Mann. "He wasn't going to prison willingly. He wasn't going to plea to something in his mind he didn't do."
He stood trial in February 2005 for five days. And at first, the jury's deliberations moved swiftly. Jurors voted to acquit Wilson of raping the 17-year-old.
"I mean it wasn't even an hour," said jury forewoman Marie Manigault. "We immediately saw the tape for what it was. We went back and saw it again and saw what actually happened and everybody immediately said not guilty."
But there was one other charge the jury had to decide on. The second girl in the videotape was 15, and the age of consent in Georgia is 16. And under state law, prosecutors charged Wilson with aggravated child molestation. To those close to the young man, it was an outrage.
"Nobody could believe that this is the law," Mann said.
Even jurors frowned on the charge. "A bad law, absolutely," Manigault said.
Historically, oral sex has been covered under the sodomy laws in Georgia. Until 1998, oral sex between husband and wife was illegal, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In Wilson's case, even though he was only two years older than the girl, and she was an apparently willing participant, at 15 she could not consent legally that night.
Whatever their feelings about the law, jurors felt they had no choice but to find Wilson guilty of aggravated child molestation. Moments later, back in the jury room, jurors were told for the first time that the conviction came with a mandatory sentence of at least 10 years in prison. In addition, Wilson would be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
McDade said Wilson could have had a better outcome if he had accepted the plea deal. "What I believe is that Genarlow Wilson listened to people who were trying to use this case for another agenda and he followed their advice," he said. "Do I believe that [in] Genarlow Wilson's case justice would have been served if he accepted a lesser plea? Sure I do. I wish he had of. Sure I do."
Before the incident, Wilson -- by any measure -- had beaten the odds. The son of a single mom, the high school senior was an honor student and an all-conference football player and track star, with offers to play in college. He was popular enough to be elected homecoming king at Douglas County High.
"I was the first-ever homecoming king at my high school," he said. "That was a very great privilege for me."
Wilson's Atlanta attorney B.J. Bernstein said prosecutors should never have brought charges and that justice should have been meted out at home.