In two adjacent courtrooms Friday morning, attorneys representing men charged in connection with the rape of an Ooltewah High School freshman said their clients were not guilty.
Ooltewah High School head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery faces four charges of failure to report child sexual abuse, and Gatlinburg Police Detective Rodney Burns is facing two counts of aggravated perjury because of his testimony in Montgomery's preliminary hearing in this case.
Both were scheduled for arraignments Friday morning in Hamilton County Criminal Court.
Montgomery's attorney, Curtis Bowe, stood before Judge Don Poole and entered a plea of not guilty on his client's behalf. Simultaneously, Stephen Greer, representing Burns, did the same before Judge Tom Greenholtz.
Both attorneys did not return requests for comment Friday afternoon.
A motion filed earlier in the week on Burns' behalf stated he waived his right to appear and that an attorney would be representing him.
But Montgomery was in court Friday morning, sitting in the third row of the gallery with his wife and Ooltewah High School volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams beside him.
All three men were charged after a team trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., in December, during which a freshman was allegedly raped by three of his basketball teammates. Williams was originally charged with failing to report child sexual abuse in this case, along with the school's Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley.
Williams' and Nayadley's cases have each taken different routes than Montgomery's.
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston dropped the charges against Williams. In the order of dismissal filed last month, Pinkston stated the charges were dismissed against Williams because he "was not provided any training regarding the mandatory reporting law."
Nayadley accepted a pretrial diversion last month, which means he agreed to skip a grand jury review and the charges will be erased from his record in 180 days if he completes 10 hours of community service, attends a course on reporting abuse and is well-behaved.
Burns faces the harshest penalty out of all four men — aggravated perjury is a class D felony that carries a sentence between two and four years behind bars — because of his testimony in the case. Failure to report child sexual abuse is a class A misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to 11 months, 29 days behind bars.
Burns is scheduled to appear again before Greenholtz for a status hearing Aug. 23, and Montgomery is scheduled to appear Aug. 24 before Poole. The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office said it will move during these hearings for each case to go to trial.
The three former Ooltewah High School students charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault in this case are being tried as juveniles in Sevier County, Tenn., and their court files are sealed. The judge's decision not to transfer the cases to criminal court means the boys will receive much lighter punishments, if convicted, and nothing will remain on their permanent records.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at 423-757-6592 or kendi.ander firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @kendi_and.