Update: Columbus police charge man with statutory rape of 14-year-old girl at Spencer High

Columbus police today arrested a man on charges he had sex with a 14-year-old girl last week at Spencer High School.

Charles Johnson, 19, was charged with one count of statutory rape, a felony, said Sgt. Craig Haggas of the Columbus Police Department. Johnson, of Columbus, was booked into the Muscogee County Jail after 2 p.m. and was being held on $2,500 bond.

Initial police reports said the girl was raped in an outside hallway at the 4340 Victory Drive school, that she had cuts to her neck and had been threatened during an assault. But a charge of statutory rape does not carry the forcible and “against her will” element of that of a rape charge, suggesting Johnson may have claimed the sex was consensual, said Bill Mason, a defense attorney who is not involved in the case.

Consent is not relevant to a statutory rape charge, Mason explained, because the alleged victim is underage and cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse.

Spencer High principal Reginald J. Griffin took to Facebook last week to comment on the student’s initial allegations, accusing the student of changing her story and making up a suspect’s name, “Red.” Haggas declined to say whether Johnson was also known as Red.

“To say a student was raped is automatically saying that it happened,” Griffin wrote in a post that has apparently since been removed from his account. “I am therefore asking the public to be responsible as this will hopefully be resolved soon. Since this alleged incident is not clear and accounts have since changed, we will continue to investigate.”

Griffin did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

“If he removed it, he removed it on his own,” said school district spokeswoman Valerie Fuller, who had not seen the post and could not say whether it violated the district’s social media policy.

Georgia law says someone commits statutory rape “when he or she engages in sexual intercourse with any person under the age of 16 years and not his or her spouse, provided that no conviction shall be had for this offense on the unsupported testimony of the victim.” At 19, Johnson could face one to 20 years behind bars if convicted. (The range is 10-20 for defendants over 21.)

He was scheduled to appear at 2 p.m. Friday in Columbus Recorder’s Court for an initial hearing. It was not clear whether he had an attorney.

Staff writer Alan Riquelmy contributed reporting