Local News

June 25, 2014

Sexual battery, underage booze case going to grand jury

At one time, Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said more arrests were coming “soon” following a May 10 incident where around two dozen Calhoun High School students held a post-prom, underage drinking party in Ellijay where one of the girls was sexually assaulted.

But complications have prevented those additional arrests with the case going before a grand jury next week, Nicholson said Tuesday.

“We have had much discussion about this with Alison (Sosebee, district attorney), as late as (Tuesday) and we’re probably going to be holding off on the alcohol charges for a little while because of this reason — every one of those kids at the party in one way or another is a witness to the more serious crime,” Nicholson explained. “We’re going to have to have them, and it’s going to make it difficult for the prosecutors to be able to communicate with them if they are criminal defendants.”

Nicholson added he was “not real fond of the idea” of not charging the underaged participants at the party for drinking, but certainly understood the need for it to help the case move forward.

“That’s just of kind of where we’re at right now,” he said.

Currently, three 18-year-old Calhoun High graduates — Fields Chapman, Andrew Haynes and Avery Johnson — have been charged with one count each of aggravated sexual battery and possession of alcohol by a minor. None of the three was allowed to walk through graduation commencement exercises after the story broke about the party in a cabin on the Coosawattee River.

Johnson lost his college baseball scholarship to Georgia Highlands College for being charged with a felony, school officials there said. Another teen involved in the case as a witness, Rhett Harper, who was the valedictorian at Southeast Whitfield High School, has his baseball scholarship under review at Georgia State College, which is coached by Gilmer High alumnus Greg Frady. Harper’s identity was released to the media by his attorney, Sam Sanders of Dalton.

Chapman, Haynes and Johnson were each released on $51,000 bonds the day they turned themselves in at the Gilmer County jail.

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