rape, abuse 2
The men were between the ages of 18 and 22, Harrington said, and the encounters with the minors appeared to be one-on-one. Picture for illustrative purpose only. Image Credit: Gulf News

Alabama: A dozen men in Alabama, including several Jacksonville State University students, have been charged with rape after being accused of having sexual encounters with two minors on or near the campus.

The men appeared in District Court in Calhoun County on Monday. All waived their right to a preliminary hearing and the cases were moved to a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict the men, according to Jay Harrington, an investigator with the 7th Judicial Circuit Major Crimes Unit.

The men were between the ages of 18 and 22, Harrington said, and the encounters with the minors appeared to be one-on-one.

They were arrested from Sept. 17-30, he said. They were booked into the Calhoun County Jail and released on bond. Investigators were not expecting any more arrests.

Officials would not confirm the men’s names or how many were enrolled university students.

Eleven of the men were charged with second-degree rape and one with second-degree sodomy, Harrington said. In Alabama, rape in the second degree is classified as sexual intercourse between someone 16 or older and a member of the opposite sex who is 12 to 15 years old, provided there is at least a two-year gap between them.

The family of one of the girls filed a report with the Jacksonville Police Department in early September, Harrington said.

The department then notified the university administration of the alleged sexual misconduct, Sam Monk, the university’s lawyer, said in a statement.

The rapes started in January at Jacksonville State University

After receiving the initial police report, an independent investigative agency that operates under the district attorney’s office started looking into the allegations, Monk added.

Investigators found that the men started meeting the girls in the middle of January and continued with at least 12 encounters until Sept. 1, Harrington said.

The girls communicated with the men by “electronic means” and came onto campus grounds and nearby properties on multiple occasions, Monk said.

The encounters occurred in several residence halls and on a campus parking lot, according to the university’s crime log, which classified the incidents as statutory rapes.

“This is not typical at all,” said Harrington, who investigates cases involving juveniles. “I’ve not seen this before.”

The victims had no affiliation with the school

Brian McVeigh, the district attorney for Calhoun County, said he could not comment on the cases given the ages of those involved.

Bill Broome, a lawyer representing one of the men, told local television station WBRC that one of the girls was 15 but portrayed herself as 19 on social media.

Broome said the girl pretended to be a transfer student and knew class schedules and instructors’ names at the university.

“This is just wrong to label these young men as rapists and potentially have to register as sex offenders,” Broome told the station.

Campus security increased

Monk, the university lawyer, said the situation is “contained” and there did not appear to be any safety concerns for Jacksonville State University students.

“We as an institution and as a community are committed to maintaining a secure and trusted campus environment for our students, employees, visitors and guests,” he said, “and we will continue with appropriate vigilance and campuswide education.”