A star football player at an Alabama high school has been accused of raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl at a party, police say.
Cameron “Harrison, 18, a senior at Spanish Fort High School, turned himself in Wednesday night and was charged with first-degree rape, WKRG-TV reports.
Harrison has been barred from school and the football team as a result of his arrest. He appeared in court for the first time Thursday and was released on $45,000 bail.
“You cannot rape an unconscious girl. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school athlete star, it doesn’t matter what your future holds. It doesn’t matter you cannot do this,” Baldwin County Assistant District Attorney Chalea Tisdale told Fox 10 News. “There is a problem in our society with people feeling entitled to do whatever they wish and it is wrong. I want the kids in this county to get this message: if you do this to another person, you will be prosecuted.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Victim Is Facing Harassment at School & Online
The 16-year-old victim has faced harassment at school and online, officials said.
During Harrison’s first court appearance, the judge warned that anyone harassing the victim would face consequences.
“She has had some blow back. I would also like to send the message that will be dealt with very harshly,” Baldwin County Assistant District Attorney Chalea Tisdale told Fox 10 News. “I do not expect this girl to be bullied. I do not expect her to suffer any more as a result of what he has done to her and if there is any intimidation going on and I will attend to that as well.”
Daphne Police Captain Jud Beedy told the New York Daily News, “She’s the topic of a whole high school. Unfortunately, the verbal judo is affecting her. ‘He didn’t do it, she asked for it.’ Just nonsense chatter. It’s really upsetting her. Can’t you imagine?”
At the high school’s playoff game on Friday, friends and teammates showed support for Harrison. A banner with the words “Toros 4ever,” referencing his jersey number, was hung in the stands, and some wore shirts with the number on it. The starting quarterback wore a towel with “4” on it.
The superintendent of the district, Eddie Tyler, condemned the show of support.
“I am making it clear that I, as superintendent, the board nor this school system will tolerate or condone bullying, intimidation or publicly supporting the violation of law or school board policy. We will deal with such actions appropriately,” Tyler said.
Authorities said they would be watching out for online bullying.
“If everyone else is seeing it, so are we,” police spokesman Jason Vannoy told Al.com.
2. Harrison Allegedly Went to the Girl’s Family to Apologize in an ‘Arrogant’ Manner
Prosecutors said Cam Harrison went to the girl’s house to apologize to her family in an “arrogant” manner, Assistant District Attorney Chalea Tisdale said in court, according to Al.com.
Tisdale said the apology was, “more about him than it was about her. It was an admission,” according to Fox 10 News.
Harrison allegedly bragged about having sex with the girl, according to Al.com.
3. His Attorney Says the Girl Was Not Unconscious & Called for the Charges to be Dropped
Harrison is accused of raping the unconscious 16-year-old girl at a house party in October that involved underage drinking, Al.com reports.
“He went into a room where a girl was lying unconscious and he raped her,” Assistant District Attorney Chalea Tisdale said. “This child was unconscious and she obviously could not consent.”
But on November 19, Harrison’s attorney filed a motion in court calling for the charge to be dismissed, presenting evidence he claims exonerates his client, WKRG-TV reports.
In the motion, attorney John Beck calls it, “A consensual sexual encounter between a sixteen-year-old high school junior and an eighteen-year-old high school senior”.
Beck says 20 witness statements contradict the prosecution’s claim that video shows the girl being removed from the room while unconscious. Witnesses say she was “laughing and fully conscious,” Beck claims. He also said other witnesses say they saw Harrison and the girl in a bedroom, “conscious, active and willing participants with each other.”
Witnesses also say she went downstairs under her own power, Beck says in the motion, socializing and “carrying a pink Yeti cooler by herself and climbing into the back bed of a pickup truck”.
Beck says the girl told witnesses Harrison did not rape her, but was pressured into accusing the football star by authority figures. According to Fox 10, Beck claims the girl went to the hospital four days after the party, contradicting a defense affidavit implying she went the day after. He also said the girl texted Harrison and told him, u didn’t rape me.”
Harrison is charged with first-degree rape, a class A felony. First-degree rape is committed during a forcible sexual assault or, when a perpetrator, “engages in sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex who is incapable of consent by reason of being physically helpless or mentally incapacitated,” according to Alabama law.
If convicted, Harrison faces a prison sentence of 10 years to life.
The woman who owns the home that hosted the party has also been arrested.
Cathy Roberts, 58, was charged with hosting an open house party and allowing the consumption of alcohol by minors, Al.com reports.
4. His Teammates & Other Classmates Came to His Court Appearance to Show Their Support
Harrison had several supporters at his first court appearance on Thursday, including his family, friends and his football teammates.
“He’s innocent, I couldn’t believe it,” a classmate told Fox 10 News.
“This isn’t something I would expect from Cameron Harrison any way shape or form and I’m sure he will be found innocent and we will wrap this up,” family friend Allen Cox told the news station.
Harrison and his family declined to comment, but his brother took to Twitter to thank the supporters:
Cameron Harrison is currently on house arrest and must wear an ankle bracelet as conditions of his release.
5. He Was the Running Back for His High School’s Undefeated Team
Harrison was the starting running back for the Spanish Fort High School Toros, an undefeated team that is set for its second playoff game Friday night.
“It’s very troubling to all of us anytime young people are in trouble with the law or face legal action,” Spanish Fort head coach Ben Blackmon told Al.com. “We are praying for all the parties involved and will continue to keep them in our prayers.”
The Toros have won three state titles since 2010. Blackmon said he told the team about the arrest Wednesday, and they are trying to focus on the game.
“I think it shocked them a little at first, but our kids are resilient,” he said. “I think we’ll be fine. Our focus as a football team is going to be on the first round of the playoffs and beating Pell City. We have to worry about what we can control and that is going out on the field and playing football.”