Local News

June 10, 2014

Suspect in sexual battery case loses baseball scholarship

Avery Johnson was likely looking forward to playing more baseball after signing a scholarship with Georgia Highlands College, but the recent high school graduate has seen that dream slip away because of his arrest in a sexual battery case.

The investigation into an alcohol-fueled party on May 10 in Ellijay attended by about two dozen Calhoun High School seniors has seen Johnson, Fields Chapman and Andrew Haynes, all 18, each charged by the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office with one count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of possession of alcohol by a minor.

Johnson’s address was listed as 1108 Sunset Drive in Dalton in Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office booking documents when he was arrested late last month.

Johnson would have been playing ball close to home — Georgia Highlands diamond action takes place at its Cartersville campus — but now he won’t be dressing out with the Chargers.

“We are aware of the situation and, in accordance with GHC’s athletic policies, Mr. Johnson has been released from his scholarship and letter-of-intent with the Georgia Highlands College baseball program,” said Raymond E. Carnley, the college’s chief advancement officer and executive director of the GHC Foundation. “The current policy states that any signed/committed student who has not yet enrolled be released from his or her letter-of-intent and any associated scholarship withdrawn in the event that student is charged and/or convicted of a felony. As this is an ongoing investigation and we don’t have all the information, it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

None of the three suspects were allowed to take part in Calhoun High’s graduation ceremony.

Meanwhile, the situation of another college baseball hopeful who was at the party but not charged with a crime is being monitored by the college’s head coach.

Rhett Harper, 18, a 2014 Southeast Whitfield High School graduate who was described as a “witness” but not a suspect at the party by his Dalton attorney, Sam Sanders, has not been charged in the case. The school’s valedictorian, Harper signed a baseball scholarship with Georgia State University in Atlanta.

The head baseball coach at GSU, Gilmer High alumnus Greg Frady, said in an email he is keeping an eye on the case.

“We are monitoring this situation daily and will act accordingly as all information comes forward,” Frady stated.

The party happened in a cabin on the Coosawattee River and was supposed to be attended by only around a half-dozen teenage girls, said Sheriff Stacy Nicholson. But that was before social media took over and the party swelled to 27 young people — ages 18 to 20 — showing up with lots of booze.

Nicholson said on June 3 that more arrests were coming “soon,” most for underage drinking with another unspecified charge against one of the three teens already arrested.

“The follow-up investigation is continuing and there will be other charges as stated initially,” Capt. Frank Copeland said Tuesday. “However, we are not in a position to be able to discuss exactly what charges due to the ongoing status. There is still quite a bit of work to do.”

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