Putnam County's district attorney says he won't prosecute a 14-year-old girl accused of being a prostitute, because she was a victim herself in the case.
In a news release, D.A. Fred Bright said a juvenile-court judge agreed on Dec. 1 to dismiss charges against the girl if she completed treatment, counseling and care. The girl and her lawyer agreed to that order, which holds the charges "in abeyance."
The girl, whose name has not been released, was arrested in November.
At least 11 men face a variety of charges including child molestation, statutory rape and aggravated child molestation.
In his news release, Bright wrote that prosecution against those men will continue, and he plans to present evidence against them to the next grand jury in Putnam County.
"As to the 14-year-old victim," Bright wrote, "our office and law enforcement recognize that she had been exploited by the adult perpetrators in this case. From the beginning, our only goal has been to obtain counseling, treatment, care and protection of this teenager,which she is now receiving."
Since the release of the investigation in January, one Watkinsville woman took to the web, asking for authorities to reverse the initial decision to charge the teen.
"I felt a deep sense of outrage about how this child was portrayed and about some of the comments that people were making," said child advocate April Childs.
The virtual petition spread across computers throughout the nation, garnering more than 100,000 signatures. Late last month, the outcry reached the District Attorney.
On January 26, Childs posted a response from D.A Fred Bright, stating he will drop the charges against the girl if she continues treatment and counseling.
"Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse period. And at 14-years-old, she can't consent to sex with any adult," said Childs.
She feels the teenager's case is not a matter for the criminal justice system, but for Child Welfare.
"Why is this one child whose been violated and traumatized by 11 grown men not treated like you would treat other victims of child sexual abuse?" asked Childs.
Bright also wrote that law enforcement is still investigating whether there was a "pimp" or some other adult pushing or benefiting from the girl's activities. He wrote, "There is no evidence that one exists."
The district attorney wrote that his office has asked the Human Trafficking Unit of the Georgia attorney general's to assist in the case.
Bright is district attorney for the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit, which includes Baldwin, Jones, Putnam, Wilkinson and Hancock counties.