Gatlinburg detective files $300,000 defamation lawsuit against Neal Pinkston

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 Monday.
photo District Attorney General Neal Pinkston

Rodney Burns, a detective with the Gatlinburg, Tenn., police department, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Neal Pinkston, Hamilton County's district attorney general, for publicly accusing Burns of perjury after the detective's testimony in the Ooltewah rape case.

An attorney for Burns in February called allegations that the officer may have spoken untruthfully during a hearing in the Ooltewah basketball rape case "baseless" and "reckless."

In a lawsuit seeking $300,000 in damages filed with the Tennessee Division of Claims Administration, Burns said he has suffered damage to his reputation, his active cases have been postponed and he has been ridiculed by the public and media outlets.

Burns said Pinkston never consulted with him about his reports about his testimony, either before or after the Feb. 15 hearing in which he said Pinkston became angry.

Burns testified in a Juvenile Court hearing in February when three Ooltewah athletics officials were charged with failing to report sexual assault on the 15-year-old freshman that happened during a tournament trip to Gatlinburg on Dec. 22.

On the stand, Burns said the insertion of a pool cue into the boy's rectum, which punctured his colon, prostate and bladder, wasn't a rape because the assailants didn't receive sexual gratification.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston responded by asking the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to begin a probe. Pinkston said Burns' words on the stand contradicted what he wrote in incident reports.

Burns' attorney said Pinkston "needlessly injected himself into this case for his own political ambitions at the cost of victims."

Instead of attacking Burns, "General Pinkston should be concerned instead with the systemic failure of Hamilton County Schools to stop a history of bullying and hazing," his attorney said.

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