Originally created 03/08/06

Plea deal gets teens probation



Two Columbia County teenagers who were arrested last fall on felony sexual assault charges will face no more jail time after they were sentenced to probation Tuesday morning in Juvenile Court.

Reginald Anthony Rice III, 18, of Grovetown, a standout Greenbrier High School football player, pleaded guilty to felony statutory rape as part of a negotiated plea agreement with the District Attorney's Office. Juvenile Court Judge Douglas J. Flanagan sentenced Mr. Rice to 24 months on probation and 56 hours of community service. The teen also must attend a sex education course and a decision-making discussion group.

"I just thank God everything is done with," Mr. Rice said with a big smile after leaving the hearing with his parents.

Mr. Rice was indicted by a Superior Court grand jury in October in the rape of one girl and the aggravated child molestation of another; police say the incidents involved two 14-year-old girls and a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy.

Those four juveniles also went before a Juvenile Court judge today; however, their court cases were not open to the public because of their ages.

"He has taken this matter as seriously as anyone I've ever seen," said Jacque Hawk, Mr. Rice's attorney, to Judge Flanagan.

Shadrick M. Harris, 18, of Appling, Mr. Rice's high school football teammate, was also charged with three counts of aggravated child molestation. Both teens were also indicted on three counts of misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Mr. Harris admitted to misdemeanor sexual battery as part of the negotiated plea agreement.

Judge Flanagan sentenced Mr. Harris to 12 months' probation and 48 hours of community service, and he also must attend a sex education course and a decision-making discussion group.

"When it's a consensual matter, even though they deserve punishment, they don't deserve confinement," Judge Flanagan said of young adults such as Mr. Rice and Mr. Harris.

Superior Court Judge Duncan Wheale transferred cases against both teens to Juvenile Court in December.

The charges stem from an incident Sept. 17-18 in a "barn-type structure" behind the home of one of the teens, police say. A parent of one of the girls reported the incident Sept. 26.

"This young man is here because of something a lot of young men and a lot of young women do," Judge Flanagan said while sentencing Mr. Rice. "They don't understand that when you act like an adult, sometimes it has adult consequences.''

Mr. Harris, who couldn't stop smiling after the hearing, is attending Columbia County Alternative School, and Mr. Rice is taking online classes through the school system and attending classes at Augusta State University. Both teens are scheduled to graduate on time, said Charles Nagle, Columbia County's school system associate superintendent.

Mr. Nagle said both could petition to return to classes at Greenbrier High, but neither has filed such a petition.

Mr. Harris said he plans to attend Augusta State in the fall, while Mr. Rice is looking into some remaining scholarship offers and plans to continue as an athlete.

"You'll see me on ESPN," Mr. Rice jokingly said to someone in the courthouse who encouraged him in his athletic pursuits.

Reach Valerie Rowell at 868-1222, ext. 110, or valerie.rowell@augustachronicle.com.



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