ELLIJAY — Three former Calhoun High students were charged Wednesday with aggravated sexual battery and underage consumption of alcohol stemming from an alleged sexual assault at a cabin in Gilmer County on May 11.
Andrew Haynes, Fields Chapman and Damon “Avery” Johnson, all 18-year-olds, turned themselves in at the Gilmer County Jail and were each released on $51,000 bond.
If convicted, the men could face 25 years to life in prison, Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said.
Nicholson said Wednesday during a press conference on the town square that his agency did not have evidence to charge the men with rape because a foreign object was allegedly used to assault the victim. He declined to elaborate.
“At this point we cannot say a true rape, as described in the Code section — intercourse — occurred,” Nicholson said.
All three men are accused of being involved directly in the assault, Nicholson said. “They are all three being charged because we contend they were all three taking part,” he said.
Nicholson said the alleged victim was hospitalized following the incident for several hours the next day.
“I will say this,” Nicholson said. “Her injuries were substantial.”
He said the investigation will continue.
“It’s been an emotional case, especially for the city of Calhoun and Calhoun High School,” Nicholson said during the roughly 18-minute press conference in front of a crowd of about 20 reporters. “We have worked as fast as we have worked to bring an end to this case.”
Nicholson said his department conducted more than 50 interviews, studied forensic evidence and listened to feedback from sexual assault experts before making arrests.
“In a case involving teenagers or young people, once you make an arrest, the information flow tends to shut down,” Nicholson said. “About three days into the investigation we kind of knew where we were heading with this, but we wanted to make sure we got all the information before we put people in jail.”
He said his agency would be working to bring charges against other people at the party for underage consumption. All of those in attendance at the party were younger than 21, Nicholson said.
The sheriff initially said no one else was in the room where the alleged assault took place — a bedroom — but he came back and said someone else did witness the attack.
No one attempted to stop it, according to Nicholson.
Members of the Calhoun community expressed their thoughts following the arrests Wednesday.
Tiffany Barringer, a CHS parent and one of those who protested outside the high school, said she was pleased the men turned themselves in.
“I am very happy to see these charges,” she said. “Everyone I have been speaking with seems very happy as well, and this is the first step in getting justice for this crime.”
Christina Lewis, a Calhoun resident, said the entire event is sad for everyone involved.
“It breaks my heart that so many good people’s lives were destroyed beyond repair, and my heart breaks for the parents of these boys,” she said. “My heart breaks for the poor girl in this situation, and I commend her bravery for not letting this alleged crime go unpunished. Calhoun is a town that has always been there for each other. I was born and raised here, and it’s totally devastating. This is a time to get on your knees and pray to the good Lord.”
The three suspects were not allowed to walk at their graduation this past Friday.
Calhoun City Schools issued the following statement Wednesday:
“Today Calhoun City Schools was made aware of the arrest of three Calhoun High School graduates in connection with an event which took place on the evening of May 10, 2014, at a private residence in Gilmer County. We have no further comment regarding this ongoing criminal matter. Our continued thoughts and prayers are with all those involved in this tragic course of events.”
The Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said 3 former Calhoun High School students are charged with aggravated sexual battery after a post-prom party sexual assault because a foreign object was used in the attack.
Nicholson said authorities could not prove that intercourse occurred. All three men turned themselves in today and bonded out at $51,000 bond each.
The GBI is still examining forensic evidence and additional charges may follow.
Andrew Haynes, Fields Chapman and Damon "Avery" Johnson have been booked in at the Gilmer County Jail. According to a press release from the Gilmer County Sheriff's Office, the three men are charged with aggravated sexual battery and underage consumption.
Nicholson said the three men were the only people involved in the assault but that there were many other people under the age of 21 at the party. He expect to file charges against many of the other attendees of the party for underage consumption.
There is no evidence of who provided or purchased the alcohol at the party, the sheriff said.
Three former Calhoun High School students have been arrested concerning an alleged sexual assault after a post-prom party two weeks ago in Gilmer County.
Andrew Haynes, Fields Chapman and Avery Johnson have been booked in at the Gilmer County Jail. According to a press release from the Gilmer County Sheriff's Office, the three men are charged with aggravated sexual battery and underage consumption.
Aggravated sexual battery is a felony criminal offense punishable by up to life imprisonment.
The Gilmer County Sheriff's Office will host a press conference today at 2 p.m. to talk about the suspects in the alleged rape that occurred at a cabin in Elijay after the Calhoun High School Prom. The sheriff's office will discuss the charges that will be received, according to Gilmer County Captain Copeland.
The Calhoun Times will have updates following the press conference.