Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 21, 2014

Charges pending against Ga. students after alleged post-prom rape


CNHI News Service

ELLIJAY, Ga. — An evening to remember will likely become a night of regret for more than two dozen young people, many of whom may be charged with a crime after an 18-year-old female student was allegedly raped at a post-prom party at a resort in northern Georgia.

The incident, which happened in the Coosawattee River Resort near Ellijay late on the night of May 10, is being investigated by Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office detectives and the district attorney’s office, Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said.

According to investigators, the party primarily involved older teenagers from Calhoun High School who traveled to the resort after their high school prom. A student from Southeast Whitfield High School was also involved, Nicholson confirmed. The parents of one of the Calhoun students own the cabin, according to a sheriff’s office release.

The alleged female victim told a Calhoun Police Department officer Sunday afternoon she had been raped by “multiple guys” earlier that morning at the cabin, according to an incident report that includes 16 Calhoun High students and the Southeast student as participants or witnesses. The girl did not disclose who took part in the alleged rape, saying only that around 2 a.m. she was “passed out” in an upstairs bathroom at the cabin.

“There was enough alcohol there to float a canoe down the Coosawattee River,” Nicholson said.

Investigators spent a week interviewing the kids involved, Nicholson added, with more follow-up interviews expected this week.

“My detectives and I have had multiple discussions about this case, and with the district attorney,” Nicholson said. “We want to wait until our forensics come back before we do anything more. No arrests have been made but several are pending.”

He said charges could range from the sexual assault itself to “numerous people” lying to investigators and underage alcohol consumption.

The allegations threaten to jeopardize upcoming commencement exercises at Calhoun High School. Nicholson said he had met with Calhoun superintendent Michele Taylor, who expressed concern that the occasion could become “some kind of circus.”

Taylor, who characterized the incident as “not a school matter,” said she would wait for more information from the investigation before deciding whether the male suspects would be allowed to receive their diplomas.

“No decision has been made at this point,” Taylor said. “At this point nobody has been charged. We’re trusting that the Gilmer County sheriff’s department is doing everything they can, and we’re being very cooperative and supportive of that.”

By late Tuesday, Calhoun City Schools issued a statement which read, in part: “Given the seriousness of the allegations, the board and administration are concerned that the presence of the identified suspects at Friday’s commencement ceremonies would likely cause a substantial disruption and could create an unsafe environment. For these reasons, the suspects will not be attending graduation.”

Information for this story was reported by the Dalton (Ga.) Daily Citizen.