Judge dismisses charges against former Ooltewah High School basketball coach

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 8/31/16. Former Ooltewah High School head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery exits the courtroom after appearing before Judge Don Poole on August 31, 2016 facing charges of failure to report child sexual abuse.

Charges have been dismissed against former Ooltewah High School's head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery.

Montgomery faced four counts of failure to report child sexual abuse in connection with the pool-cue rape of a freshman basketball player. Three former Ooltewah High School players were convicted in connection with the rape that occurred during the team's trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., to compete in a basketball tournament nearly a year ago.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole dismissed the charges this morning, saying under the state statute Montgomery was not required to report this incident of sexual abuse to authorities.

Poole reminded the courtroom that someone cannot be charged based on their moral obligation to do something, but the court must make its decision based on the law.

There is no dispute that the attack of the freshman at the hands of his teammates was horrendous, Poole said.

"It's hard for us to believe what a human being can do to another human being," he told the courtroom.

Poole suggested that the statutes may not be properly worded and something that the legislature may want to consider changing. He interpreted the statute regarding the reporting of child sexual abuse to say that adults only have the legal obligation to report the abuse of a kid between the ages of 13 and 17 if it is committed by a member of the child's household.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston's office plans to ask the Attorney General's Office to review this decision for potential appeal.

Montgomery declined to comment after the decision, but was crying as he hugged his family and friends outside the courtroom.

His attorney, Curtis Bowe, said its been long year of emotion and stress for Montgomery and his family.

"It takes a toll," he told reporters.

Montgomery commended Poole's interpretation of the law, and said those responsible for the rape have been held accountable.

"Mr. Montgomery is not responsible," Bowe said.

Hamilton County Schools removed Montgomery from the classroom and his coaching responsibilities last year, pending this case. Bowe said he does not know if Montgomery will go back to teaching, but added that he is a great teacher and talented coach.

"And I can't imagine him doing anything different," Bowe added.

Its been almost a year since the 15-year-old freshman was raped by a 17-year-old teammate, while two 16-year-old teammates held him down, according to court testimony and records.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston charged Montgomery with four counts of failure to report child sexual abuse in connection with the rape in January.

In previous hearings, Pinkston and Bowe argued whether state laws are too vague concerning who is required to report instances of child abuse, and how timely those reports must be.

Bowe has argued that Pinkson's office doesn't have discretion to file charges in Hamilton County when the incident happened in Sevier County, Tenn.

Bowe also focused on the ages of the three boys convicted in connection with the rape, as age plays a specific role in who takes the lead on a child abuse case. Law enforcement moves first with 13- to 17-year-olds, while the Department of Child Services handles 13-year-olds and under, Bowe said. At 18 years old, different charges typically apply.

He previously asked Poole to dismiss Montgomery's charges in a motion that includes that argument.

Pinkston argued there is a duty to report regardless of the age of the child. He noted that some of the statutes aren't crystal clear about whether children can be charged with child sexual abuse.

"But nonetheless," he said, "child sexual abuse can involve children, as we have pointed out."

Pinkston previously filed charges of failure to report child sexual abuse against former Ooltewah High School volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams and the school's former athletic director, Allard "Jesse" Nayadley.

The charges against Williams were dropped in May. And two weeks before that, Nayadley accepted pretrial diversion, meaning he agreed to skip a grand jury review, and the charges will be erased if he completes 10 hours of community service, attends a course on reporting abuse and is well behaved.

This is a developing story.