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Gary Younge
Americas Georgia sex attacker's jail term cut

In a case which ignited racial tensions in the Deep South, the state's highest court ruled that Marcus Dixon should have been prosecuted only on the lesser charge of statutory rape, which carries a maximum one-year sentence and $1,000 fine, rather than aggravated child molestation for having sex with a girl three months before her 16th birthday in February 2003.

He claimed the sex was consensual. The girl accused him of raping her, bruising her arms and cutting her lip.

The nine white and three black jurors decided the sex was consensual and acquitted him of rape, sexual battery, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

But because the girl was under 16, the jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of statutory rape and, because of her injuries, the more serious charge of aggravated child molestation, which was categorised as one of the "seven deadly sins" by Georgia's legislators in 1995 and carries a minimum 10 year sentence.

It was unclear how soon Dixon could be released because he has been in jail since last May. Gary Younge, New York

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