published Friday, June 27th, 2014

Calhoun post-prom rape case heads to grand jury

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    Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson speaks at a news conference about the arrest of three men on sexual battery and aggravated sexual battery charges following an incident after the Calhoun High School prom in this file photo. Standing with him are detectives Kirk Champion and Scott Camp.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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    Fields Chapman is a suspect in the alleged Gilmer County sexual assault of young woman.

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    Andrew Haynes is a suspect in the alleged Gilmer County sexual assault of young woman.

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    Damon Johnson (who goes by Avery Johnson) is a suspect in the alleged Gilmer County sexual assault of young woman.

A Gilmer County, Ga., grand jury will hear evidence against three former Calhoun High School athletes accused of sexually abusing a fellow student.

When the grand jury meets next week, Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee will present her case against Fields Benjamin Chapman, Andrew Isaac Haynes and Damon Avery Johnson. The Gilmer County Sheriff's Office arrested the 18-year-olds on charges of aggravated sexual battery and underage consumption of alcohol stemming from a party on May 11 after Calhoun High School's prom.

The grand jury session begins Monday and jurors will hear evidence for several cases throughout the week. On Thursday, Sosebee declined to say when specifically she would present evidence in the Chapman, Haynes and Johnson case.

During grand jury proceedings, prosecutors present evidence and ask jurors to indict a specific defendant or defendants. This is one step in proceedings that could end with a jury trial.

The hearings are closed to the public, so any evidence or testimony in the post-prom party case will remain a secret.

Chapman, Haynes and Johnson all played sports at Calhoun High School, and all three athletes are accused of sexually battering a female student at a party after the prom last month.

Between 20 and 30 students flocked to a cabin inside an Ellijay, Ga., gated community.

There, in an upstairs bedroom, investigators say the three men penetrated the woman with a foreign object. At least one other student was in the room, but that student has not been charged.

About a week after the arrests, Gilmer County Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said that "most probably" either Chapman, Haynes or Johnson will be charged with another crime. The sheriff did not return calls asking for clarification on which of the three would be charged or for what crime.

On Thursday, Sosebee declined to say whether Chapman, Haynes or Johnson will face an additional charge during next week's grand jury proceedings.

"At this point in time," she said, "I wouldn't comment on any of the details of an investigation."

When the three men were arrested, Nicholson said more Calhoun High School students would be charged for drinking alcohol. Thus far, however, the sheriff's office has not arrested anybody else who was at the party.

Capt. Frank Copeland of the sheriff's office said Thursday that his department would not charge any other student "right now" at Sosebee's request.

"The district attorney needs to be able to interact with a good portion of those folks," Copeland said. "It is difficult for them to do that when [witnesses] are being charged with some sort of crime. ... I don't know how long that will be or when those charges will come."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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