GILMER COUNTY, Ga. – A Gilmer County grand jury indicted three teens Monday, accusing them in an alleged sexual assault against a Calhoun High School classmate at an off-campus after-prom party in Gilmer County last May.
The charges against the three 18-year-old men could put them in prison for life. It's a case that is evoking outrage and anger among supporters of both the accused and the accuser.
Fields Benjamin Chapman, Andrew Haynes and Damon Avery Johnson were indicted on charges of aggravated sexual battery and sexual battery.
They were at an after-prom party with about two dozen others in May. There was a lot of alcohol use at the party, and the men are accused of assaulting a fellow student.
"I've been here 23 years and her injuries were substantial," Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said in May.
But Jesse Vaughn, the attorney for Avery Johnson, says prosecutors did not let the grand jury hear from at least one witness who disputes the young woman's accusations.
"He was in the room, he saw it, he hasn't been charged with anything, but what he saw was consensual acts taking place," Vaughn said. "So I just think that's information that a grand jury would want to have."
The attorney acknowledged that police may have witnesses who claim it was not consensual, but he said that stories likely differ among the people who were there.
"I'm sure the stories vary a couple dozen different ways. Just that many kids in a place with that much alcohol, there's no telling what all the stories are," Vaughn said. "Ultimately, it's up to 12 jurors to decide that, and what the truth really is."
Chapman and Haynes are also each charged with one count of sodomy.
Chapman was also charged in a separate indictment with 28 counts of sexual exploitation of children. He's accused of possessing a cell phone that contained 28 sexually explicit photos and videos of a girl who was under the age of 18.
The next step will be the arraignment, where all three are expected to plead not guilty.