Prosecutor orders investigation of detective in rape case

AP News
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Posted: Feb 17, 2016 8:12 PM

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee district attorney general has ordered an investigation into whether a police detective gave "perjurious testimony" about the alleged sexual assault of high school basketball players by their teammates.

The Hamilton County District Attorney's office announced Wednesday that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would investigate Gatlinburg Police Det. Rodney Burns following testimony he gave during a preliminary hearing for three Ooltewah High School officials accused of failing to report a sexual assault.

Burns testified during the hearing Monday that the assault was blown out of proportion and "something stupid that kids do."

"This was something stupid that kids do that shouldn't have been done, but it wasn't done for sexual gratification or really sexual in nature," Burns said. "It was an assault, really. It just happened that the end result fit the definition of aggravated rape." He said the incident lasted 20 or 30 seconds and that "there was no rape, torture, no screams of anguish."

Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Robert Philyaw said at the end of the hearing that "I'm troubled with the testimony we heard from the detective in Sevier County on several different levels."

Burns did not return a phone call seeking comment, but he told Chattanooga TV station WTVC that "I can't comment on the investigation but to deny the charge. I have nothing to hide. I told the truth on everything."

Basketball coach Andre Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and athletic director Allard Nayadley each pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that they failed to report child sexual assault. The case now goes before a grand jury.

Police say the assault took place Dec. 22 in Gatlinburg, where the team was playing in a tournament.

Tennessee law requires school officials to report any suspected child sexual abuse to the state Department of Children's Services, to the sheriff or police chief where the children reside or to the juvenile court with jurisdiction over them. The Ooltewah officials instead took the child to a hospital and contacted police in Sevier County, where the alleged incident took place.

The two jurisdictions have been at odds over the severity of the assaults. Affidavits in the Chattanooga case claim four freshman players were "subjected to apparent sexual assaultive behavior including but not limited to being struck with pool cues and also these four freshman basketball players were subjected to apparent sexual assault." The affidavit said one player required emergency surgery.

Gatlinburg Police have pressed rape charges in only one case.