Gatlinburg detective waives right to appear in court in connection with Ooltewah rape case testimony

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 2/15/16. Detective Rodney Burns of the Gatlinburg Police Department is questioned 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.

Gatlinburg (Tenn.) police Detective Rodney Burns filed a motion Monday in Hamilton County Criminal Court stating he will not appear this Friday for his arraignment.

Burns, scheduled to appear before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz, is facing two charges of aggravated perjury because of his testimony in the preliminary hearing of three adults facing charges in connection with the rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman.

Aggravated perjury is a class D felony that carries a sentence between two and four years behind bars, and Burns could be the individual facing the harshest penalty in connection with the rape.

The motion filed Monday states that Burns will be represented Friday by his attorneys, who will enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

The motion is signed by Burns, his previous attorney Bryan Delius and a second attorney, Stephen Greer, based in Dunlap, Tenn.

Burns, 55, turned himself in at the Hamilton County Jail May 20 after being indicted by a Hamilton County grand jury days before. He was released on a $2,500 bond.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into whether Burns committed perjury on the stand after his February testimony in the preliminary hearing for Ooltewah High School head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and the school's athletic director, Allard "Jesse" Nayadley.

Josh Devine, spokesman for the TBI, said the investigation discovered Burns was "untruthful."

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

Burns testified in this hearing that "there was no rape or torture, no screams of anguish." But previously he wrote in police reports that someone told him "the victim yelled out in pain" and another person said "he could hear [the victim] yelling when they had attacked," according to the indictment.

The indictment also says Burns didn't testify truthfully when he initially said he called authorities to report the incident on Christmas Eve and no one answered, and then later said it was beyond the parameters of his report to contact these same authorities.

After the charges last month, Gatlinburg Police Department Chief Randall Brackins released a written statement saying Burns would be reassigned until he is exonerated, convicted or more information about the charges becomes available.

"At this time, the Gatlinburg Police Department's review of the facts of this case and the transcript and video of Detective Burns' testimony does not reveal a clear understanding of these allegations," Brackins stated.

Burns' attorney, Delius, said he has filed a petition to recuse District Attorney General Neal Pinkston from prosecuting the case based on the prosecutor's "clear interest in the outcome." Delius also petitioned the court to allow testimony from an unnamed assistant district attorney from Sevier County who will purportedly offer testimony clearing the detective of any wrongdoing.

"Apparently none of this was considered and General Pinkston continues his attack against Detective Burns, a most highly regarded detective with the Gatlinburg Police Department," Delius said in a written statement.

Previously, Delius released a statement on behalf of Burns, calling the allegations against him "base" and "reckless."