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May 29, 2014

Recent Southeast grad not charged in case

A recent Southeast Whitfield High School graduate was not among three men arrested Wednesday for the sexual battery of a woman at an alcohol-fueled post-prom party in Ellijay earlier this month.

Fields Chapman, of 609 Shenandoah Drive, Andrew Haynes, of 263 Thornwood Drive, and Avery Johnson, of 321 Doubletree Drive, all 18 and 2014 graduates of Calhoun High School, were each charged by the Gilmer County’s Sheriff’s Office with one count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of possession of alcohol by a minor.

Rhett Harper, the former Southeast Whitfield student who was at the party, was not charged.

Sam Sanders, Harper’s Dalton-based attorney, told The Daily Citizen last week that Harper was only a witness in the case and was no longer a suspect.

“Rhett and his family have been confident that a fair investigation would lead to the conclusion reached by the Gilmer County authorities — that is that he had no involvement in any alleged sexual assault,” Sanders said in a statement Wednesday. “The rumors involving Rhett’s participation or awareness of any sexual criminal act are simply untrue. Rhett has freely met with the Gilmer County authorities on numerous occasions and has described to them what he saw on the evening in question, the same as around 25 other individuals that were interviewed. Rhett will meet with the Gilmer County investigators any time they wish and will be happy to describe to them whatever he knows about the night in question.”

When Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson was asked at a Wednesday press conference if Harper would be charged, Nicholson said, “That’s still up in the air. That’s still up in the air.”

The Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office incident report from May 11 lists 16 Calhoun High students — including the three charged — and Harper. Chapman, Haynes, Johnson and Harper were listed as suspects in the rape investigation. Sanders said Harper was at the party, but “did not participate in any sexual assault whatsoever.”

The incident at 20 Edgewater Drive in Coosawattee River Resort involved older teenagers from Calhoun High School who traveled there after their high school prom, bringing alcohol. Nicholson said there was beer, liquor and wine at the party and that it “sounds like the party was pretty out of control.”

The 18-year-old victim told a Calhoun Police Department officer the afternoon of May 11 she had been raped by “multiple guys” earlier that morning at the cabin, according to the incident report. The girl did not say who raped her, saying only that at about 2 a.m. she was “passed out” in an upstairs bathroom at the cabin.

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