The family of the Ooltewah High School freshman allegedly raped by three of his basketball teammates has retained one of the nation's top attorneys specializing in cases of school violence.
Douglas Fierberg, whose national trial practice is based in Washington, D.C., and Eddie Schmidt from Nashville will be representing the 15-year-old and his family, who will not be named by the Times Free Press to protect the victim's identity.
Fierberg's practice, School Violence Law, is the only nationwide practice that specializes in representing victims of violence in school-related incidents; and Fierberg has personally served as lead counsel for victims of sexual violence and hazing at schools and universities across the nation.
Most notably, Fierberg was lead counsel for some 20 victims of the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007, a case that resulted in a historic settlement with the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Schmidt represents victims across Tennessee and has successfully represented middle school athletes in federal court who were sexually assaulted by teammates.
In a statement released to the Times Free Press on Tuesday, Schmidt said, "The family's sole focus right now is in allowing this young man time to heal, both mentally and physically, and in private."
Schmidt said the family wishes to thank everyone in the community, including the police and prosecutors, for their support, compassion and insistence that schools and educators protect students.
"When the time is right, legal action will be instituted to help pay for his recovery and, most importantly, create changes necessary to prevent this from happening to others in the future," Schmidt wrote.
The freshman was assaulted Dec. 22, allegedly by three of his older teammates, during a team trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn., to compete in the Smoky Mountain Classic basketball tournament.
According to court records, two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old are charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault in the incident that sent the 15-year-old to the hospital for emergency surgery to repair his colon, bladder and prostate that were ruptured in the attack.
The assault happened in the basement of the cabin the team was renting, and records show the 17-year-old boy allegedly forced a pool cue into the freshman's rectum while two 16-year-old teammates held him down.
All three boys charged are scheduled to appear March 15 in Sevier County Juvenile Court, according to court officials.
Ooltewah High School basketball head coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and the school's Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley are charged with failing to report child abuse or suspected child abuse in connection with the case.
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston previously said three other boys were sexually assaulted during the trip, but did not receive the same injuries as the boy rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
Representatives in Pinkston's office said they believe younger players endured abuse from older teammates before the trip. It was a part of the team's "beat-in" culture, and it was routine for freshman to be hazed and even assaulted, they said.
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at email@example.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.