Former Ooltewah High School students charged with assaulting teammate appear in court

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 2/15/16. (Image taken with the iPhone Panorama App.) Media report as defendants appear 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 15, 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.

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Eight months after the pool-cue rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman, the three teammates charged in connection with the assault are expected to appear today in Sevier County Juvenile Court.

Two of the defendants were 16 at the time of the assault, and the other was 17, and all three were charged in December with aggravated rape and aggravated assault in Sevier County. The rape took place at a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tenn., where the team stayed just days before Christmas, while playing in a basketball tournament.

The then 17-year-old turned 18 while in custody early this year, but Sevier County Juvenile Court Judge Dwight Stokes decided in March not to transfer the defendant to adult court where he would face much steeper penalties.

During this hearing, Stokes allowed the public and media into the courtroom, and said Juvenile Court was better equipped to rehabilitate all three boys.

A new judge is now handling this case, according to a clerk with the Sevier County Juvenile Court.

Sevier County Judge Jeff Rader will preside over today's hearing, and denied the Times Free Press' request to be in the courtroom.

Typically, Juvenile Court proceedings are conducted behind closed doors and records remain sealed, but under Tennessee law Rader has the authority to allow the media and public into the courtroom and to release documents connected to this case.

Three other Ooltewah High School freshman were also assaulted during the trip, though their injuries were not as severe as the main victim, who was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, according to court records and testimony.

Several of the victims, along with their mothers, are attending today's hearing.

According to a report released earlier this month, a culture of bullying and hazing existed on the Ooltewah High School boy's basketball team for months, maybe even years, before the trip to Gatlinburg. The coaches also knew that "excessive horseplay" was taking place on the team, according to a private attorney who conducted the investigation on behalf of the Hamilton County Board of Education.

Four adults were also charged in connection with this case.

Ooltewah High School's head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery is charged for not reporting child sexual abuse to the proper authorities, and is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County Criminal Court Wednesday.

Failure to report child sexual abuse is a class A misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days behind bars.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston also charged the team's volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams and Ooltewah's Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley with failure to report child sexual abuse.

Pinkston dropped the charges against Williams, and Nayadley accepted pre-trial diversion, which means he agreed to skip a grand jury review and the charges will be erased from his record if he completes 10 hours of community service, attends a course on reporting abuse and is well behaved.

Gatlinburg Police Detective Rodney Burns, who investigated this rape, also faces charges in this case.

Pinkston charged Burns with two counts of aggravated perjury after his testimony in a preliminary hearing in Hamilton County Juvenile Court for the three Ooltewah adults. Burns is scheduled to appear again in Hamilton County Criminal Court next month.

Aggravated perjury is a class D felony that carries a sentence between two and four years behind bars.

It is not known if Burns, who investigated the Gatlinburg assaults, will testify in today's hearing.

Stay with the Times Free Press for updates in this developing story.