TARPON SPRINGS — A Tarpon Springs High School student who was a winner of the 2012 cross dive during the city's iconic Greek Orthodox Epiphany celebration has been arrested on suspicion of sexually battering an intoxicated 15-year-old girl during a house party last week, police said.
Tarpon police said Jared Alissandratos, 17, has been charged with the sexual battery of a physically incapacitated girl, a first-degree felony that carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison if he is convicted.
According to a police report, Alissandratos admitted having sex with his accuser, though it is unclear whether he believed it was consensual at the time.
Charges against two other boys, both under the age of 18 and also students at Tarpon High, are being forwarded to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office for review and possible prosecution, Tarpon Springs police Capt. Jeff Young said. While it is unclear what role the other two boys played, police said in a statement that the victim "was reportedly taken advantage of by possibly 3 males."
Already jarring because of the serious allegations, the case has been amplified in the past 48 hours by a flurry of social media activity. Tarpon Springs teenagers have taken to Twitter to discuss the case, many of them decrying Alissandratos' arrest and directing derogatory or obscene remarks at the girl who accused him.
"You're about to ruin someones life for something he didn't even do," one Twitter user wrote. "Its f----- up what she did to you man i am truly sorry for you," another user said.
At least some comments appeared to address the police investigation. One user wrote, "we didn't (do) anything No one talk to those cops #weKnowOurRights" and "If u haven't personally spoke to the cops or aren't close with Jared or anyone involved then don't involve urself. Trust me."
A "#freejared" topic page was busy with commenters Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with some people talking about making "Free Jared" T-shirts.
Alissandratos himself took to Twitter the day after the alleged sexual battery, posting a photograph of four empty liquor bottles with the message, "What happend last night."
The vivid Twitter discussion of the incident is reminiscent of the social media activity that followed the rape last year of an intoxicated teenage girl by two boys in Steubenville, Ohio. That case also led to furious web debate over disputed rape allegations, with many criticizing the boys' accuser. Last month, both of the defendants were tried and convicted.
Alissandratos is part of a prominent Tarpon Springs family. He was one of four cross retrievers during the city's Epiphany celebration on Jan. 6, 2012. The contest, in which boys of Greek descent vie to retrieve a cross thrown into Spring Bayou, is part of the annual day-long religious festival that draws attendees from across the nation. Alissandratos' father, Aleck, is a longtime co-chair of the dive and retrieved the cross himself in 1977.
According to a juvenile arrest affidavit released by police, the recent incident took place at a party last Friday night at Aleck Alissandratos' house at 782 Chesapeake Drive in Tarpon Springs, a two-story, $380,000 home with a dock on Tarpon Bayou. Young, the Tarpon police official, said the party was attended by between eight and 20 people at different times during the evening, and no adults were present.
The arrest affidavit states that alcohol was available at the house party and that "the victim became extremely intoxicated and was taken to a room to lay down." According to the affidavit, Jared Alissandratos entered the room and began having sex with her, an act he later "admitted" to investigators.
"The victim did not give consent to the defendant(s) to have sex, and the victim was not able to give consent due to her level of intoxication," the affidavit states.
The girl reported the incident to a school resource officer at Tarpon Springs High School on Monday, Young said. He said detectives continue to investigate and other charges or arrests could result.
"They're still trying to piece everything together," he said.
Following the usual protocol in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors, police have not released the girl's identity.
The allegations took Jared's father, Aleck Alissandratos, by surprise.
"I flew in from Vermont on Tuesday, so I really don't know any details to share with you," he said when reached by telephone Thursday. "But I have complete faith in the court system, and I think a lot of information will come out then, and I'm confident that his name will be in good standing."
Michael Kouskoutis, a Tarpon Springs lawyer who helps organize the cross dive and has known the Alissandratos family for years, said he was stunned by the news that Jared had been accused of sexually battering an intoxicated girl at a party.
"I'm sort of in a state of shock to know that, because that doesn't seem in his character," Kouskoutis said. "He's a quiet kid, unassuming. He's not very flashy, real quiet, very respectful.
"Sometimes you have to wait for all the facts to come out to be vindicated."
Pinellas schools spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra said Tarpon Springs High is cooperating with police as the investigation continues. She declined to comment on the allegations against Jared Alissandratos.
She said school officials have not formally addressed the incident with the student body through an assembly or any other measures, but noted that normal counseling options are available for students concerned about the case.
"Students always have the option to speak to a school counselor, a psychologist or a guidance counselor if they have a matter they feel they need to talk about," Marquez said.
This is not the first time that a young man who retrieved the cross has run afoul of the law. In 1997, a cross retriever was charged with burglary in connection with a convenience store break-in. In 1999, two cross retrievers were charged in connection with a road rage incident — one with attempted murder, the other with aggravated battery.
Staff writers Keyonna Summers and Danielle Paquette and news researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Peter Jamison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4157.