Calhoun post-prom assault suspects face more charges

Calhoun post-prom assault suspects face more charges

August 6th, 2014 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

From left, Fields Chapman, Andrew Haynes and Avery Johnson

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

The three suspects in the Calhoun High School sexual battery investigation now face a combined 10 life sentences in prison, plus an additional 351 years behind bars.

A Gilmer County grand jury re-indicted Fields Benjamin Chapman, Andrew Isaac Haynes and Damon Avery Johnson on Monday after prosecutors added about nine new charges against each defendant. A female Calhoun High School student told investigators that multiple men had sex with her against her will during an after-prom party May 11 in an Ellijay, Ga., cabin.

Prosecutors first indicted the men July 7. All three defendants were charged with one count of aggravated sexual battery and one count of sexual battery. Chapman and Haynes were also charged with sodomy.

But defense attorneys for all three protested that indictment, saying it was flawed for several reasons. So prosecutors went back to the grand jury on Monday. This time, they lodged several more charges against all three men.

The specific crime has not changed from one indictment to the other. In both versions, investigators say the defendants penetrated the victim with their fingers.

In the new indictment, though, prosecutors charged all three men multiple times for the same act. The defendants are each charged with two counts of aggravated sexual battery -- one count for each finger they used. They also each face five counts of aggravated battery, two counts of sexual battery and one count of public indecency.

According to the indictment, all three men penetrated the victim at the same time, "causing bruising, swelling and lacerations to the sexual organs."

Chapman and Haynes also both face two additional aggravated sexual battery charges as "parties to a crime" because they let each other penetrate the victim. If convicted, the defendants could 25 years to life in prison for every count of aggravated sexual battery.

Steve Williams, Haynes' attorney and a former prosecutor, said it is "ridiculous" to charge his client several different ways for one action.

He compared the case to the 2006 rape investigation involving the Duke University lacrosse team, a case that gained national media attention. In that case, the victim's claims were proven false and the district attorney surrendered his law license.

In this case, all three defendants played sports at Calhoun High School. Chapman and Haynes played quarterback and wide receiver for the Yellowjackets football team, which has reached the state championship in five of the last six seasons.

"This thing has been blown way, way, way out of proportion," Williams said. "I've been doing this for 37 years. I've never seen anything that has been as exaggerated as this."

Appalachian Judicial Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee did not return a call seeking comment Monday and could not be reached late Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to adding new offenses, prosecutors have switched a charge from one defendant to another. On July 7, a grand jury indicted Haynes for sodomy. Now Johnson has been indicted for that alleged crime and Haynes has not.

Defense attorneys also object to the new "public indecency" charges. The alleged crimes occurred in a bedroom.

"I don't know if there's any case law that says a bedroom is a public place," said Johnson's attorney, Jesse Vaughn. "That runs afoul of the common wisdom of what a bedroom is."

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.