Princeton Harlan, 18, a standout quarterback for Mount Pleasant High School, is charged as an adult with rape of a child and is free on $100,000 bail. He faces a minimum 25 years in prison with no possibility for early release if convicted.
Two teammates, ages 17 and 16, are also accused of having sex with the girl, who had an abortion, but no decision had been made whether to prosecute them as juveniles or adults, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Monday.
Tennessee law does not distinguish between forcible rape and a consensual sex act with a minor, District Attorney Mike Bottoms said.
"Would it make a difference if she was 8 or 12?" he said. "To me, it's the same thing."
Defense lawyers said there should be a more appropriate charge to level against Harlan and the two others. The child rape charge is generally reserved for stereotypical pedophiles, rather than young people involved in a consensual "relationship."
"I think in some ways it shocks your conscience if you have an 18-year-old and maybe a mature 12-year-old and the state would insist on 25 calendar years in prison," said Davidson County Senior Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Wing.