TBI investigating Gatlinburg police detective for perjury in Ooltewah rape case

District Attorney's office says Burns' testimony differed from police report

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 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.

State law officers are investigating whether a Gatlinburg, Tenn., police detective committed perjury when he testified Monday in Hamilton County that an Ooltewah High School freshman was not raped by his teammates.

The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into Detective Rodney Burns after his testimony Monday differed from incident reports he filed in connection with the Dec. 22 incident.

Burns testified in Hamilton County Juvenile Court that the freshman was assaulted, not raped. He spoke during a preliminary hearing for three adults charged with failing to report abuse or suspected sexual abuse.

In petitions Burns signed against the three former Ooltewah High School students charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault, he wrote that a 17-year-old took a "pool cue stick and forced it into the rectum and prostate gland [of the victim.]"

Two 16-year-olds "did assist in forcing and holding the victim down while another defendant took a pool cue stick and forced into the rectum of the victim causing serious injuries to the victim that required surgery to repairs his bladder, rectum and prostate gland," Burns wrote.

In court Monday, Burns described what happened to the 15-year-old boy as "something stupid kids do." He said the whole case is being blown out of proportion, and he contradicted himself several times.

On Wednesday, Gatlinburg Police Chief Randy Brackins released a statement about the case.

"The City of Gatlinburg and the Gatlinburg Police Department take all reported crimes very seriously and strive to ensure public safety for all our citizens and visitors. Due to the pending trial of the Ooltewah juvenile case, we cannot comment on this matter at this time," Brackins said.

Attorneys representing Ooltewah High School head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley called Burns as a witness in the hearing. Their attorneys, Lee Davis, Curtis Bowe and Johnny Houston, did not return requests for comment Wednesday.

Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw decided Monday to send the charges facing the men to the Hamilton County grand jury for possible indictments.

Following Burns' testimony, state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, said he found the detective's comments "disturbing."

"I'm sitting there thinking, a cue stick up someone's rectum is traditional? This guy's insane," Gardenhire said Tuesday in an interview at the state Capitol. He paused before adding, "That's Latin for that guy ought to be fired."

Chattanooga police Chief Fred Fletcher also voiced concern with Burns' testimony. He posted a comment on his personal Facebook page Tuesday calling the attack a rape.

"For anyone, including a police officer, to suggest otherwise minimizes the severity of this incident, the experience of the victim and, ultimately, makes life more dangerous for current and future victims," Fletcher wrote.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.

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