The Baldwin County District Attorney’s office has no plans to drop charges against 18-year-old Cameron Harrison, the Spanish Fort High School (SFHS) student accused of raping an unconscious 16-year-old female at an open house party in Timber Creek last month.
Harrison’s attorney John Beck claims the defendant is falsely accused. Beck said the district attorney’s office and law enforcement made an “irresponsible rush to judgment” to punish the former SFHS running back. The attorney released a statement Nov. 13 demanding Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon drop all charges against Harrison.
Beck also questioned whether the victim was actually unconscious at the time of the incident, saying some who were present at the party contradicted the claim.
“Not only did the complainant consent to this encounter, evidence will show that she actively pursued it,” Beck said. “The complainant herself has repeatedly confirmed to several people that all acts between herself and Cameron were condoned and that she was an active participant. The complainant also sent a message to Mr. Harrison wherein she confirms ‘u didn’t rape me.’”
The case is set for a preliminary hearing Nov. 24. Dixon said the charge against Harrison has been substantiated and corroborated by eyewitness statements and video showing the victim’s unconscious state prior to the rape.
“Any information Mr. Beck claims to have is welcomed by law enforcement and our office for verification and follow-up,” Dixon said. “To date, we have received no such information. If any witnesses have any information to the case, we urge them to bring it forward.”
Dixon said witnesses with information related to the case should contact the Daphne Police Department, which continues to interview people who were at the party.
According to court records, a large number of SFHS students were present at the scene of the alleged crime. After the victim consumed enough alcohol to lose consciousness, she was taken by a friend to a bedroom in the home. The following morning, the victim felt severe soreness in her vaginal area and was treated at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital. The deposition says witnesses told investigators Harrison told them he had sexual intercourse with the victim at the party.
In Alabama, persons charged with crimes that occurred when they were under the age of 21 are eligible for youthful offender status, which seals their record from permanent view. Beck said it is “too early” in the process to speculate whether Harrison could be granted youthful offender status and it isn’t conferred until a person is arraigned in circuit court following a returned indictment.
A person can only be granted youthful offender status by a judge. If, as in Harrison’s case, the charged offense is a felony, statutes reduce the range of punishment to a maximum sentence of three years. State law makes first-degree rape a Class A felony, which could carry a sentence of 10 to 99 years’ imprisonment.
Also, youthful offender status seals the records of the case. Any record of the charge, arrest and court proceedings are made off limits and are not accessible to anyone not involved in the case.
According to state law, once a person has been granted youthful offender status, even if they are found guilty of the charged offense the charge will not show up on their record as a conviction. Instead, the court will treat it as an adjudication.
Anyone adjudicated as a youthful offender won’t lose the right to vote or the right to carry a firearm, unlike adults convicted of felonies. However, youthful offenders forfeit their right to a trial by jury and any trial would proceed outside of the public eye.
The possibility that Harrison could receive youthful offender status is the reason his mugshot is not available on the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office’s online jail records. According to the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, even though at age 18 Harrison is lawfully an adult, the county won’t post his photo in online arrest records because he may be able to petition for youthful offender status.
In a similar case, former SFHS student Deon Johnson was accused in 2012 of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old female in the parking lot at Bay Community Church in 2011. Johnson’s trial ended in 2014 when the former football player was granted youthful offender status. Because youthful offender status was granted, the details of the agreement reached by the prosecution and defense, as well as Johnson’s punishment, were sealed.
The deal ended three sexual assault charges Johnson faced at the time, including the 2011 rape charge and a separate second-degree rape charge from an incident at Spirit Park.
According to Beck, Harrison has received support from friends and family in the Spanish Fort community because the senior football player has “good character.”
“The overwhelming support for Cameron in the community reflects nothing more than familiarity with his good character and familiarity with the circumstances surrounding a consensual encounter between himself and a fellow student: a fellow student who was fully cognizant of her choices and actions on that evening,” Beck said. “While Mr. Harrison regrets his actions, his regret is no different than the regret felt by the complainant for engaging in an alcohol-inspired act of consensual sexual gratification. The unfortunate response of the complainant was to blame someone else for her own decisions.”
When reports that the victim has been harassed and threatened online by Harrison’s supporters and photos showing Spanish Fort students openly supporting Harrison at a recent football game surfaced, Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler banned the signs 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,” Tyler said. “We will deal with such actions appropriately. Protecting our students and modeling good character and leadership are our responsibilities as adults.”