SNELLVILLE - Four Snellville teens who police say are part of a local gang are being held in jail on multiple charges in connection with keeping a girl against her will after they, along with their mother and great-grandmother, were arrested last week.
All four boys participated in gang activity by identifying themselves as The Strap Squad, aka "ABM" (All Bout Money), and are associated with the Folks gang, a police report said. Investigators found evidence of gang activity on the boys' MySpace.com pages as well as in a book recording gang activity, Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said.
But their mother, Prima Kowona Charleston, said her boys "are not hoodlum, ghetto children" but teenagers who write and perform rap music. They've posted their music on their MySpace pages, and the notebooks seized by police were filled with music lyrics, she said.
While she admits her children have been involved in neighborhood fights, Charleston said the teens have not been involved in gang activity, strong-armed robberies or burglaries, as the police say the boys have.
"All that crap is bogus," Charleston said in a telephone interview Friday night. "They have no evidence or proof. They're just coming up with stuff."
The boys - ages 13, 14, 16 and 17 - have been in jail since the March 9 arrests, Charleston said. She and her grandmother, 74-year-old Mary L. Herndon, were each arrested on a charge of interference with custody and released on a $5,600 bond.
Charleston and Herndon, police said, concealed the fact that a 14-year-old girl was being held against her will in their Dorian Drive home. The girl reportedly told police she was forced into a car March 4 by two men she did not know and taken to an unidentified location overnight before she was held for three days at Charleston's Dorian Drive home.
But Charleston said the girl is a runaway who lied to police to avoid getting into trouble. Charleston said the girl was staying nearby with a friend and that Herndon turned her into police.
The 16-year-old boy was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor statutory rape of the 14-year-old girl, Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said. The 13-year-old faces a charge of false imprisonment for helping his brother keep the girl at their home, Whitehead said.
The girl, who told police a boy hit her whenever she tried to leave and was not allowed to use the phone, said she had intercourse one time during her four-day capture, according to a police report. She told police the boy who had sex with her stopped when she told him to.
Charleston, who said she is a youth minister who is pursuing a master's degree in divinity, said she took the 14-year-old girl to church on one of the days police said the girl was held against her will.
A police report says the girl was found March 8 after Herndon approached an officer who had stopped two of the boys to ask them why they weren't in school. Herndon told the officer she had found the girl in a bedroom that morning, the report said.
Charleston, Herndon and the four boys were arrested the next day.
Dominic Montrez Thicklin, 17, remains in the Gwinnett County Detention Center on charges of criminal trespass, simple battery, robbery, participation in gang activity and terroristic threats and acts.
The other boys are being held at the Regional Youth Detention Center on three counts of burglary, four counts of strong-armed robbery and one count of participation in gang activity, Whitehead said.
Charleston said she believes the police have unfairly targeted and harassed her family. After her arrest was made public, she said her landlord served her with eviction papers - but she already had plans to move.
"It's hard enough for me to go to jail, falsely. (Jail is) something new to me," Charleston said. "But now I'm here without my children.
"They (the police) ain't broke us. ... They think they've won, but it will turn out (all right)."
Staff writer Melissa Wilson contributed to this report.