With more than a month remaining before Gatlinburg, Tenn., police Detective Rodney Burns is scheduled to appear in Hamilton County Criminal Court on charges of perjury, he is asking that Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston be removed from prosecuting his case.
Burns is charged with two counts of aggravated perjury, a class D felony that carries a sentence of between two and four years behind bars, because of his February testimony in the Ooltewah High School rape case.
Burns' attorney, Bryan Delius, filed a motion last week claiming Pinkston's involvement in Burns' prosecution is a conflict of interest because Burns filed a $300,000 defamation lawsuit against Pinkston in February. In the lawsuit, Burns claims he's suffered damage to his reputation, his active cases were postponed and he's been ridiculed by the public and media outlets because of Pinkston's comments about him.
The lawsuit was filed after Pinkston asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate Burns for perjury.
In the motion, Delius argues Pinkston "has a direct personal interest in bringing a criminal prosecution as an attempt to battle the civil claims filed against him." Delius continues to allege that Pinkston told media outlets Burns committed perjury "for the sole purpose of inflating his own persona his objective was politics and pandering, not seeking justice."
Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for Pinkston's office, said it's against the law for Pinkston to comment on pending cases.
Burns' perjury case is being heard before Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz, and Clewell said he will decide if Pinkston and his office cannot prosecute this case. Burns is scheduled to appear before Greenholtz on Aug 23.
Clewell added that Pinkston hasn't been notified of Delius or Burns filing any complaints against him with the Tennessee Bar Association or the Board of Professional Responsibility. Both offices said Monday they could not confirm or deny whether complaints were filed.
Despite Burns' claim he didn't perjure himself during the testimony, the TBI's investigation found he was "untruthful."
According to the grand jury indictment, Burns "unlawfully and with intent to deceive" made two false statements under oath during his testimony.
Burns testified in the hearing that "there was no rape or torture, no screams of anguish" during the Dec. 23 incident at a Gatlinburg cabin allegedly involving members of the Ooltewah High School basketball team. 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 those same authorities.
Also during the testimony, Burns referred to the rape of the 15-year-old as "something stupid kids do." He said the perpetrators received no sexual gratification from the act, so he did not consider it a sexual assault.
After being indicted in May, Burns turned himself in at the Hamilton County Jail and was released on a $2,500 bond.
Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at 423-757-6592 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.