WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – From local leaders to celebrities and professional athletes, the case of a Wichita man convicted of rape is garnering new attention in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many argue Wichita Southeast High graduate Albert Wilson was wrongly convicted after an unfair trial, leading to a social media campaign called Free Albert Wilson.

Wilson was given a 12-year prison sentence in 2019 following the alleged rape of a then 17-year-old girl in Lawrence. At the time, Wilson was 20 and a student at the University of Kansas.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, Wilson met the girl at the Jayhawk Cafe, a.k.a. the Hawk, late on Sept. 10, 2016. The two started kissing in the club, went together to his nearby home for a few minutes, then returned to the bar.

The woman went for a rape kit the following day, according to trial testimony, but Wilson’s DNA was only found on her chest, where he admitted to kissing her.

Lack of evidence, improper legal counsel and a biased jury are reasons often cited for what many feel is a wrongful conviction.

The jury that found Wilson guilty was made up of all white jurors and majority female.

Democratic state senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita is one of the officials pushing for a new trial.

“To know he didn’t have anyone on the jury that looks like him is alarming,” Faust-Goudeau said.

Wilson’s sister-in-law, Nikki Robinson, enlisted Faust-Goudeau’s help in securing buses for supporters to ride up to Wilson’s new evidentiary hearing in August.

“Albert Wilson deserves a new trial,” Faust-Goudeau said. “A lot of times black people who don’t have money for an attorney, they feel the only way their voice can be heard is to bring a bus-load full of people,” Faust-Goudeau said.

Wilson held jobs at Doo Dah Diner and Dillons in Wichita and worked at The Oread in Lawrence. Robinson says the outcome of the case was unbelievable, not only by a lack of evidence but also by the high regard in which Wilson’s peers and teachers held him.

Robinson provided the following statement:

“Our ultimate goal is to prove Albert’s innocence and bring him home. By sharing his story, we are showing people that this is not an isolated incident. If you are black, brown or broke, you do not have a fair chance in our criminal justice system. That has to change. I hope Albert’s case has and will continue to shed light on the issue of social injustice. We will not stop until he is home, and we hope to have everyone’s support at his hearing in August.”

Robinson says, though rarely talked about, Wilson turned down a plea deal that would have given him probation for his sentence if he registered as a sex offender for life.

The push for a new trial for Wilson is bipartisan.

Sedgwick County commissioner Michael O’Donnell provided the following statement:

“I have been following Albert Wilson‘s case for over a year now. I believe it is a travesty, and I also believe he was not afforded a jury of his peers. As someone who personally feels attacked by prosecutors with an agenda, I sympathize with Mr. Wilson. I pray that we can get his conviction overturned, so he can return to be in Wichita with his family where he belongs. If we come together and support him, I think it would show the African-American community that we’re serious about necessary changes with local criminal justice reforms.

The case has garnered national attention. Former Wichita South football standout and current Denver Broncos cornerback Davontae Harris recently wore a Free Albert Wilson jacket at a player-led Black Lives Matter rally.

Davontae Harris in a Free Albert Wilson jacket

“If you don’t know about Albert Wilson, he’s serving 12 years in a penitentiary for kissing a white girl when he was 20 years old,” Harris began a speech to a rally in Denver.

Harris encouraged the crowd to research the case.

“I didn’t come here today to speak for me,” Harris said. “I came here to speak for the Albert Wilsons of the world because those people don’t have a voice because their voice was silenced.”

Wilson’s new evidentiary hearing is set for August 20 in Lawrence.