District Attorney says there's no conflict of interest in his prosecution of Gatlinburg detective

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston speaks to the press in this file photo.
Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston speaks to the press in this file photo.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston refused to drop charges of aggravated perjury filed against Gatlinburg Police Department Detective Rodney Burns, and he said he received a warning.

"It's going to get ugly," Pinkston was told, according to a motion he filed Friday in Hamilton County Criminal Court.

Pinkston said Burns' defense counsel asked him on two separate occasions to drop the prosecution of the case, offering in return that a civil lawsuit filed against Pinkston would "cease to exist," the motion states.

photo 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.

Burns is charged with two counts of aggravated perjury, a class D felony that carries a sentence of between two and four years behind bars, because of his February testimony in the Ooltewah High School rape case. He is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County Criminal Court Tuesday.

In July, Burns filed a motion asking that Pinkston be removed from prosecuting his case, claiming his involvement in the prosecution is a conflict of interest due to the $300,000 defamation lawsuit Burns' filed against him in February.

In response, Pinkston states in a motion that Burns' counsel offering to drop the civil lawsuit against him if he ended criminal prosecution demonstrates that the suit is "merely a feeble criminal defense tactic to disqualify General Pinkston and the District Attorney General's Office."

Burns' filed this defamation lawsuit after Pinkston asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate Burns for perjury.

After Burns testimony, Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw stated, "I am troubled about the testimony from the detective on several levels."

Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher, Senator Todd Gardenhire and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also made public comments about Burns testimony, and Pinkston points out in his motion that Burns has not filed complaints about anyone besides him.

Despite Burns' claim he didn't perjure himself during the testimony, the TBI's investigation found he was "untruthful."

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

Burns' attorney, Bryan Delius, did not immediately return requests for comment.

After being indicted in May, Burns turned himself in at the Hamilton County Jail and was released on a $2,500 bond.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz is expected to hear both motions Tuesday.

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