On October 11, three former Ooltewah High School Basketball players were sentenced with connections to a rape case that occurred in Gatlinburg, Tenn. around Christmas of last year. The team was there for the Smoky Mountain Classic tournament. The oldest of those convicted turned eighteen soon after the attack, during which he rammed a pool cue up a freshman teammate’s rectum while two other sixteen-year-old teammates held the freshman down. The injuries were severe, requiring surgery to amend.
The oldest of the attackers—convicted for aggravated assault—was tried in a juvenile court. This means that his record will be wiped clean, although his name will remain on Tennessee’s Sex Offender Registry. He will be released from custody on Nov. 21, spending less than a year in juvenile detention altogether.
The two other attackers were also tried in juvenile court and convicted of aggravated assault in connection to the case. Both of them will serve just over 100 days in juvenile detention before being released.
Court testimony and investigators have revealed that three other freshmen were attacked with pool cues during the trip, but no one has been charged in connection to those cases. During the hearing for the three convicted assailants, the mother of one of the freshmen stated, “The embarrassment that he felt from that alone is beyond anything I can begin to comprehend.” She recounted that her son was shamed for his testimony before he asked to be removed from Ooltewah High School.
In late September, Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkerton released a report describing the failure of the school district to properly supervise its employees and protect its students. The report was a joint effort between the District Attorney and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department.
“There was failure to adequately supervise the students, failure to recognize the significance of the horrific injuries suffered during a rape, failure to notify the victims' parents, failure to provide a swift and appropriate response to the attacks, and failure to assure the public that proactive measure would be taken to address the root causes of these failures,” said the report.
The report comes after a private investigation, commissioned by the Hamilton County Board of Education, found that a “culture of hazing” had existed on the boys’ basketball team. Similarly to the report, a lawsuit filed against the school board claimed that abuse and hazing existed for years and was left unaddressed by school leadership and coaches.
Four men were tried in connection with the case, including head basketball coach Andre “Tank” Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams, Ooltewah Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley, and Gatlinburg Police Detective Rodney Burns.
Williams’ charges were dropped because he was not provided training on how to report child sexual abuse. Nayadley’s charges of failure to report child sexual abuse will be erased from his record after 10 hours of community service, training, and good behavior.
Burns currently faces charges for aggravated perjury for testimony he gave in February about the case. A grand jury indictment in May found that he made two false statements under oath. He testified that “there was no rape or torture, no screams of anguish,” while previously writing in police reports that a multiple witnessed told him they heard the victim yell in response to being attacked.
A month after giving testimony, Burns filed a civil lawsuit for $300,000 against Pinkerton, his prosecutor, for publicly accusing him of perjury. Then in July, Burns filed a motion asking for Pinkerton to be removed from the criminal case on the grounds of conflict of interest between the civil case and the criminal case. A judge recently dismissed the motion.
Montgomery filed a motion to have his case dismissed claiming that the statute under which he is being tried is unconstitutional, vague, and deficient. Pinkerton filed a response stating that the motion is meritless: both the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Office of the Attorney General have determined minors can commit “child sexual abuse” and that the law clearly outlines where Montgomery could have gone to report the case. Closing arguments for the case are expected on Nov. 22.