The charge against a high school coach in Whitfield County, Ga., who allegedly failed to report child abuse is being dropped because he is said to have learned about the incident outside of a school context.
Lamar Cofield, 34, was arrested in October after investigators began looking into an incident at a home in the Pleasant Grove area on July 1. Investigators determined that five high schoolers attended a party there where they were drinking underage.
A relative of one of the five children at the party, Ashley Turner, 33, was arrested the same day as Cofield and charged with providing alcohol to persons under the age of 21.
Cofield, an employee of the Whitfield County school system and a coach at Northwest Whitfield High, came by the residence and stayed for more than an hour, authorities said. While there, Cofield observed the students consuming alcohol, and during that time one of the female students made him and Turner aware that she had just been sexually assaulted.
The Times Free Press reported previously that according to a news release and incident report from the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office, one of the girls at the party said a boy had raped her there. A third person later told the sheriff's office that the boy trapped the girl in a bathroom, pushed her into a shower and assaulted her. The girl yelled out for help, she said, but nobody came.
On Monday, Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bert Poston confirmed the charge against Cofield of failure to report child abuse was being dismissed because he heard of the alleged incident while at the party.
"Georgia law on mandated reporters as recently interpreted by the Georgia Supreme Court does not allow for prosecution because the knowledge that should have led to a report was not acquired in the school context," he wrote in an email.
"We attempted during the last legislative session to update the statute to close what we considered an unintended loophole but the bill did not make it through — not because of that issue specifically, but because of disputes about some other parts of the same bill that was included within."
Contact staff writer Emmett Gienapp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731. Follow him on Twitter @emmettgienapp.
This story was updated Dec. 4 at 11:23 p.m