All three defendants in Ooltewah rape case found guilty, two receive reduced charges

All three defendants in Ooltewah rape case found guilty, two receive reduced charges

August 30th, 2016 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

The exterior of Ooltewah High School

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

This is a breaking news update.

Document: Ooltewah report

Document: Read the full external investigation into Ooltewah High School report

Three former Ooltewah High School basketball players were found guilty in a case in which prosecutors say they raped one of their teammates with a pool cue.

However, only one, who turned 18 after being charged, was found guilty of aggravated rape.

The other two, who were 16 at the time, were convicted of aggravated assault, according to a witness inside the courtroom. 

The judge initially refused to disclose the verdict or to allow reporters to cover the trial, claiming that it could harm the now-guilty defendants, who were juveniles at the time of their arrest. 

A report made public this month found that a culture of bullying and hazing existed on the Ooltewah High School boy's basketball team for months, maybe even years, before the pool-cue rape of a freshman player by three of his teammates.

Fifteen players participated in interviews, and many of them described "racking in," which the report says happened for about a month during the fall basketball season.

Players described "racking in" as upperclassmen turning off the lights in the locker room and punching freshman with their fists from the neck down, according to the report.

"One player stated that they were 'hit hard to the point you want to fight,'" the report states. It continues to say, "players did not report the behavior because they did not want to be a 'snitch' and they did not want it to get worse."

 

 THE ASSAULT

The night the team arrived in Gatlinburg on Dec. 19 for a basketball tournament, the older players dunked the four freshman into a hot tub, according to the report. The next night, the older players began poking pool cues against freshmen's rectums.

Investigators hired by the Hamilton County Board of Education said all four freshman were held down by two older players, allowing for another to poke them in the rectum, indicating that the assailants had the intent to bully, haze and sexually harass the victims.

"The contact was unwanted, offensive and had the purpose or effect of intimidation and embarrassment," the report states. "The victims had responses indicative of victims of sexual harassment that can be characterized as shame, anger, embarrassment, confusion, humiliation and disgust."

There is no evidence the school system or Ooltewah administrators knew or should have known this would happen, the report states.

Three nights later, on Dec. 22, one freshman was assaulted with the pool cue so severely he required hospitalization and emergency surgery.

Three members of the team who were juveniles at the time of the assault faced charges of aggravated rape and aggravated assault in Sevier County Juvenile Court, according to court records.

Following the rape, Bullard's report says [coaches and administrators] failed to appropriately handle the situation and did not contact the families of the other freshman and allowed the team to play the next day.

The pair did not violate Hamilton County Schools or Ooltewah High School procedure, according to the report, but they did not "exercise appropriate judgment."

Principal Jim Jarvis made the decision allowing the boys to continue playing in the tournament the morning after the rape, which was largely based on reports received from former Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley, according to the report.

"Mr. Nayadley felt the players were ready to play and wanted to play," the report states. "None of the players interviewed stated that they wanted to play."

By allowing the boys to play, Nayadley may have sent a message to the freshman players that this conduct was acceptable, an investigator found.

Upon returning home, head coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery and Karl Williams coached the team for several more games before former Superintendent Rick Smith canceled the season on Jan. 6.

Parents of players on the team voiced frustration at the lack of response from Ooltewah High School and the school district after the incident, and Bullard said "there was no concerted, organized effort [by administrators] to reach out to the families."

Looking at Ooltewah High School outside of this incident, Bullard said the environment is positive, "and there is certainly more good than bad happening within the school."

Follow our initial coverage here: timesfreepress.com/ooltewah

This story is developing. 

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