Northeast rape charges dropped

awomack@macon.comFebruary 11, 2012 

Macon police dropped rape charges against seven Northeast High School teens Friday, saying that the 16-year-old special-needs student who leveled the charges made false statements in the case.

There were sex acts in a school restroom Jan. 19, but inconsistencies arose during the Macon police investigation of the episode. As a result, police questioned the girl Friday, and she admitted that she had made untrue statements to her mother and police, police Maj. Charles Stone said.

The girl is now charged with a felony, making false statements to law enforcement, as well as a misdemeanor, falsely reporting a crime, District Attorney Greg Winters said.

While authorities haven’t released details about what actually happened during the incident, Winters said “the way it occurred was not consistent with what she said occurred.”

Brad Wilson, the attorney representing the girl, said police questioned her without the benefit of counsel -- or her mother being in the room.

While he wasn’t present during the interrogation, Wilson said he’s talked with the girl’s mother, who said she was told she wasn’t allowed to go into the room with her daughter because the girl wasn’t being treated as a suspect.

The questioning -- at first by two officers and later by four -- lasted about two hours, he said.

“No one envisioned it would be something this intimidating,” Wilson said. “You’re talking about a fragile young girl.”

He said his understanding was that police wanted to ask just a few questions.

Wilson said he wasn’t at liberty to comment on the girl’s special needs. She wasn’t in custody Friday afternoon, he said.

Andrew Foster, an attorney representing one of the teens charged in the case, said dismissal of the charges was “the outcome we were confident would happen.

“It was unfortunate that he had to spend two weeks in jail,” Foster said of his client.

Corey Goble, the campus police officer who handled the case before Macon police joined the investigation Jan. 31, said any school discipline that might be imposed on the girl or the seven teens would be an administrative issue.

Representatives from the school system administration didn’t attend a Friday afternoon news conference. They were gathered at the Macon Coliseum while school Superintendent Romain Dallemand discussed his plan to overhaul the school system.

Winters said it would be inappropriate to comment on possible criminal punishment for the girl because the case will be handled in Bibb County Juvenile Court.

The seven teens who were charged with rape have been released from jail, he said. Three of the boys are minors.

Winters praised the work of both Bibb County campus police and Macon police officers in the case, saying there was “probable cause” to support the arrests. The officers responded appropriately by continuing to investigate after the arrests, he said.

Now that the charges against the Northeast students have been dropped, it is time to move forward and begin the healing process for everyone involved, school board member Tom Hudson said.

“It’s a wake-up call to all of us. We need to make sure to do the right thing.”

While board member Lynn Farmer would not talk about the Northeast case specifically, she pointed to concerns raised by those who addressed the school board Thursday night. Many of them said they felt that students are not being disciplined and that “a lot of issues in schools are not addressed,” she said.

Dallemand would not discuss the Northeast case Friday, and he tried to steer reporters’ questions toward the strategic plan event at the Macon Coliseum.

The Bibb County school system will continue to cooperate with the district attorney’s office and Macon police, a statement from the system late Friday afternoon said.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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