Detective charged with aggravated perjury could face harshest penalty in Ooltewah rape case

Detective charged with aggravated perjury could face harshest penalty in Ooltewah rape case

May 21st, 2016 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 2/15/16. Detective Rodney Burns of the Gatlinburg Police Department is questioned as a witness before Judge Robert Philyaw during a preliminary hearing for the Ooltewah High School basketball coaches and the school's athletic director in Hamilton County Juvenile Court on February 25, 2016. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston charged head coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley with failing to report child abuse or suspected child sexual abuse in connection with the rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman by his basketball teammates Dec. 22, 2015.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 2/15/16. Detective Rodney Burns of the Gatlinburg Police Department is sworn in as a witness before Judge Robert Philyaw during a preliminary hearing for the Ooltewah High School basketball coaches and the school's athletic director in Hamilton County Juvenile Court on February 25, 2016. Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston charged head coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley with failing to report child abuse or suspected child sexual abuse in connection with the rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman by his basketball teammates Dec. 22, 2015.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

The person facing the harshest penalty in connection with the rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman may be someone who wasn't at the cabin in Gatlinburg, Tenn., during the attack.

It could be the detective who investigated the case.

Gatlinburg Police Detective Rodney Burns is charged with two counts of aggravated perjury, a class D felony that carries a sentence between two and four years behind bars, because of his testimony in the case.

Burns, 55, turned himself in to the Hamilton County Jail on Friday after being indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury earlier this week. He was released on a $2,500 bond.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston previously said four boys were raped during the team's trip to Gatlinburg to compete in a basketball tournament just days before Christmas. One player received injuries so severe he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.

The charges of aggravated rape and aggravated assault facing the three Ooltewah students charged in the incident are being handled in Sevier County's Juvenile Court. Since the boys were not transferred to Criminal Court, their files remain sealed, and it is expected they'll receive mild punishment if found guilty by a judge.

In January, Pinkston charged three adults for failing to report child sexual abuse to the proper authorities, as required by law.

Ooltewah High School's head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery was indicted Wednesday by a Hamilton County Grand Jury for failing to report child sexual abuse and, if convicted, could spend up to a year behind bars. Assistant coach Karl Williams' case is still pending before the Grand Jury.

Ooltewah High School's Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley will likely have this same charge dropped, as he appeared before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz last week to accept a pre-trial diversion. If he completes 10 hours of community service, attends a course on reporting abuse and is well behaved, the charge will be erased from his record in 180 days.

Pinkston asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into whether Burns committed perjury on the stand following his February testimony in the preliminary hearing of the Ooltewah employees.

Josh Devine, spokesman for the TBI, said the investigation discovered Burns was "untruthful."

During Burns' testimony in February, he referred to the rape of the 15-year-old as "something stupid kids do." He said the perpetrators received no sexual gratification from the act, so he did not consider it a sexual assault.

According to the grand jury indictment, Burns "unlawfully and with intent to deceive" made two false statements under oath during this testimony.

Burns testified in this hearing that "there was no rape or torture, no screams of anguish." But previously he wrote in police reports that someone told him "the victim yelled out in pain" and another person said "he could hear [the victim] yelling when they had attacked," according to the indictment.

The indictment also says Burns didn't testify truthfully when he initially said he called authorities to report the incident on Christmas Eve and no one answered, and then later said it was beyond the parameters of his report to contact these same authorities.

The Gatlinburg Police Department released a statement Friday afternoon saying they have not had any contact with Pinkston about this matter.

"At this time, the Gatlinburg Police Department's review of the facts of this case and the transcript and video of Detective Burns' testimony does not reveal a clear understanding of these allegations," Gatlinburg Police Chief Randall Brackins said in a written statement.

He added that Burns will be reassigned until he is exonerated, convicted or more information about the charges becomes available.

Burns' attorney, Bryan Delius, said he has filed a petition to recuse Pinkston from prosecuting the case based on the prosecutor's "clear interest in the outcome." Delius also petitioned the court to allow testimony from an unnamed assistant district attorney from Sevier County who will purportedly offer testimony clearing the detective of any wrongdoing.

"Apparently none of this was considered and General Pinkston continues his attack against Detective Burns, a most highly regarded detective with the Gatlinburg Police Department," Delius said in a written statement.

Previously, Delius released a statement on behalf of Burns, calling the allegations against him "base" and "reckless."

Delius said in his previous statement that Burns, a 25-year veteran with the Gatlinburg department "wholly denies" any wrongdoing.

Following Pinkston's request that the TBI investigate Burns for perjury, Burns filed a $300,000 defamation lawsuit against Pinkston.

In the lawsuit, Burns said he has suffered damage to his reputation, his active cases have been postponed and he has been ridiculed by the public and media outlets.

Pinkston's office said it could not comment on the charges against Burns or the pending lawsuit.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at 423-757-6592 or kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.

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