David Cook: Notes from a rape

David Cook: Notes from a rape

September 30th, 2012 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Note to parents: Go check your kid's cellphone. Or Facebook. Just check. Just ... check.

Back in April 2010, one mother did just that. Her daughter was 14 at the time, right in the thick of middle school. Should be texting about cute boys or Hannah Montana or pre-algebra problems.

Instead, here's what showed up in her sent texts.

"Cud u use a condom this time. I'm still not on birth control pills yet.''

You'd freak, right? Ready to wring the neck of some punk seventh-grader? Mom found more texts, all involving a caller known as "Greg." Police traced the texts back to a cellphone number. Turned out Greg hadn't been in middle school since the 1970s.

He's Greg Austin, a 46-year-old Ooltewah father of three and former president of CTC Technologies in Chattanooga.

Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to two charges of statutory rape: having sex with two middle-schoolers in a $45-per-night motel.

Want to know where he is today?

Not in jail.

Thanks to sentencing reform and the fact Austin had no prior record, he received six months of jail, followed by 18 months' probation and registration as a sex offender.

Even though he pleaded guilty to statutory rape of two girls barely old enough to see a PG-13 movie.

Know how many days in jail he has served for that crime?

"Zero,'' said his attorney, Bryan Hoss.

After his client's guilty plea, Hoss filed an appeal of his sentence. Until that appeals hearing, set for the end of October, Austin remains free.

Note to hotel staff: When a middle-aged man brings barely teenage girls and asks to rent a room, say no. Call the police. Ring the desk bell in your brain and realize what is happening.

According to police reports, Austin rented rooms at the Waverly Motel in East Ridge. When police investigated, an employee recognized a photo of Austin.

"I know him. He comes in here all the time,'' a woman named Cynthia told police. According to police reports, Cynthia said she had seen Austin come in with younger girls and stay for about 30 minutes, leaving behind used condoms and other evidence.

Friday, I called the Waverly Motel, asking a very simple question: Is Cynthia there? The two people I spoke with possessed such poor English they could not even understand my question.

Which means the odds are next to nothing that they would call the police if they saw something suspicious.

Six months after the Waverly Motel rape -- while he was out on bond -- Austin was arrested again. Police said he had sex with a 17-year-old while a 13-year-old watched in the Super 8 Motel room in Fort Oglethorpe.

In Georgia, the victim must be 16 years or younger for Austin to be charged with statutory rape, which carries a 10-year minimum sentence.

"She was 17,'' said Chris Arnt, Lookout Mountain assistant district attorney.

During Austin's trial on charges of pandering, child molestation and enticing a child for indecent exposure, witnesses told different versions of what happened. So in the end, for his crimes in Fort Oglethorpe, Austin was found guilty of pandering and sentenced to five years of probation.

Note to teenagers: Stay awake. Stay aware. Think. Before. You. Agree. To. Anything.

Austin had used a special police badge given to him by former sheriff and current felon Billy Long to attract attention. Court documents state that Austin was the sponsor of five Little League softball teams.

"You all don't know the truth,'' Austin said over the phone Friday afternoon. "I'm not a bad person. ... I'm a churchgoing man. I'm trying to get my life together. I'm begging you. I'm putting Jesus Christ in my life. Please, I've got kids ... please stop. I'm begging you. It's not right.''

Yeah. It's not right at all.