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She Blew a 16 Year-old Kid; Now She’s Challenging Georgia’s Sex Offender Law

Georgia- The lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit that seeks to overturn parts of Georgia’s sex-offender registry law is now trying to eliminate her classification as a sex offender.

Wendy Whitaker’s status as an offender violates the Constitution’s guarantee against cruel and unusual punishment, says her new lawsuit, filed Friday in Columbia County Superior Court.

Whitaker, 29, is on the registry for having consensual oral sex with a classmate three weeks before his 16th birthday. Whitaker had just turned 17. Both were high school sophomores.

Because of her 1997 sodomy conviction, Whitaker must register as a sex offender for life and comply with the law’s residency restrictions that bar her from living within 1,000 feet of designated areas where children congregate.

“I am at my wit’s end and in a constant state of stress because I never know what’s going to happen to my family and our home,” Whitaker said in a statement issued Friday.

The suit was filed on Whitaker’s behalf by lawyers for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta.

Whitaker’s designation as a sex offender is grossly out of proportion with the severity of her crime, the lawsuit said.

It cites the 2007 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court that overturned Genarlow Wilson’s conviction in Douglas County. Wilson was serving a 10-year sentence for having oral sex with a 15-year-old when he was 17.

The gravity of Whitaker’s offense “bears no reasonable relationship” to the harshness of her penalty, such as the state Supreme Court found in Wilson’s case, the lawsuit said.

In the separate, federal lawsuit, filed in 2006, Whitaker and other plaintiffs are seeking to overturn the law’s provisions that make it a crime for registered offenders to live or work within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, churches and other places children congregate.

At a recent hearing, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper declined to halt Whitaker’s eviction from her home outside of Augusta because it is within 1,000 feet of a child care center and church.

Whitaker testified that if she and her husband are forced out of their home, it will go into foreclosure because they cannot afford both rent and a mortgage.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Columbia County also seeks to stop Whitaker from being evicted from her home in Harlem.


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