A judge has denied a motion to disqualify Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston from prosecuting Gatlingburg, Tenn., detective Rodney Burns.
Burns faces charges of aggravated perjury for testimony he gave in February about the Ooltewah High School rape case. The offense is a class D felony that carries a sentence of between two and four years in prison.
"Upon consideration of the pleadings filed by the parties," Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz wrote in the order filed Tuesday, "the evidence submitted in open court and following the hearing of this matter, the arguments of counsel, and the record as a whole, the Court hereby respectfully denies Mr. Burns's motion to disqualify."
A month after Burns gave his testimony in the Ooltewah case, he filed a $300,000 defamation lawsuit against Pinkston for publicly accusing Burns of perjury. In July, Burns filed a motion askingthat Pinkston be removed from prosecuting his case, claiming his involvement in the prosecution was a conflict of interest because of the lawsuit.
But Pinkston argued that a series of problems will arise if defendants, like Burns, are able to file civil lawsuits and have prosecutors removed from their cases.
Pinkston said he had asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate Burns in February, a month prior to the civil lawsuit being filed. The Hamilton County grand jury indictment was issued in May.
Read Wednesday's Times Free Press for more on this story.