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Student pleads not guilty to molestation

LAWRENCEVILLE - With a throng of supporters half-filling the courtroom behind him, Brookwood student John Luke Walker bowed his head as the graphic details of his indictment were read in public.

Superior Court Judge Tom Davis entered a not guilty plea on Walker's behalf during the teen's arraignment Wednesday morning. His defense attorney, B.J. Bernstein, elected to "stand mute" during the proceeding until she has time to review a list of the state's witnesses and other documents, she said.

Bernstein recently filed a motion for a bond hearing in hopes Walker, who has been incarcerated since early March, will be released until his possible trial. She inexplicably withdrew a similar motion in April.

The judge agreed to schedule a bond hearing sometime next week around a calendered murder trial, provided the hearing would be succinct.

"It's not going to be hundreds of witnesses testifying," Bernstein told the judge. "The whole hearing won't take (more than) 30 or 40 minutes."

Walker, wearing a green jumpsuit and closely shorn hair, hardly acknowledged his multitude of supporters, who filled five courtroom benches.

Prosecutors say Walker, 17, a Brookwood football player, molested a 14-year-old girl after a party in February. The incident allegedly happened at a home on Fawnbrook Court in Lilburn, where police later found the girl unconscious. Walker was reportedly house-sitting for the home's owners, who were out of town.

A Gwinnett grand jury indicted Walker last month on charges of aggravated child molestation and false statements. He initially faced an additional count of rape.

The indictment alleges Walker had illegal sex with the girl, causing her physical injury, on Feb. 17. The document also states Walker lied to police during interviews by claiming he left the scene "after a dispute with a friend named Christian," which police said is not the truth.

Georgia law states aggravated child molestation can apply to a victim under 16 years old who is injured in the act of intercourse.

Walker's family and friends shared tearful hugs outside the courtroom but declined comment. Bernstein assured the group, "We're working hard," but she too declined to discuss the case, or her client's well-being, further.

Walker has remained without bond in the Gwinnett County Jail - save for a short, court-approved reprieve to attend a family wedding - since he was pulled from the school cafeteria and arrested March 5.