Judge says he needs more time on decision to remove Pinkston from prosecution

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.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz said he needs more time to determine if Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston can continue prosecuting Rodney Burns.

Burns is a detective with the Gatlinburg Police Department, and faces charges in connection with the Ooltewah High School rape case.

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 case.

Burns appeared this morning before Greenholtz.

Greenholtz heard arguments between Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston, and Burns' attorneys, Bryan Delius and Stephen Greer.

Delius and Greer argued that Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston should be removed from the case.

Greenholtz denied two of their motions for dismissal, but said he needs more time to decide if the civil lawsuit Burns filed against Pinkston should remove him from prosecution.

All parties are scheduled to appear before Greenholtz again on Sept. 20.

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 filed a motion last week, stating why he's qualified to prosecute.

In the motion, Pinkston says that Burns' counsel offered to drop the civil lawsuit against him if he stopped criminal prosecution. He argues this 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.

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.

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

See Wednesday's Times Free Press for the full story.

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