Sentence hearing for 3 students convicted in Ooltewah rape case

Sentence hearing for 3 students convicted in Ooltewah rape case

October 11th, 2016 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

We'll have more coverage on the sentencing and what it means after the hearing is over. Stick with the Times Free Press for more. =

More Ooltewah rape case stories

SEVIER COUNTY -- Three former Ooltewah High School students are being sentenced today in connected with the pool-cue rape of a basketball teammate.

The oldest of the assailants, who turned 18 soon after the attack, was convicted in August of aggravated rape.  Two other boys were charged and later convicted of aggravated assault in connection with the attack. 

Sevier County Juvenile Court Judge Jeff Rader prevented the public or media from being in the courtroom, as Tennessee law grants juvenile court judges the right to determine if court proceedings are open to the public.  If a judge closes the courtroom they are required by law to provide reasoning as to why public access to the hearing would results in "particularized prejudice," and consider "reasonable alternatives" to closing the hearing.

The Times Free Press made several requests, asking Rader to open the courtroom to media, but he denied the requests saying defendants in the case objected to the media being present. 

When asked to provide additional reasoning for closing the hearing, Rader provided an order saying the hearing was closed to protect the identities of the defendants and victims.  He said there was "no reasonable alternative" to closing the courtroom.

Previously, Sevier County Juvenile Court Judge Dwight Stokes allowed the media into the transfer hearing for the 18-year-old now convicted of rape in this case.  Stokes asked that the names of the victims, defendants and their families not be reported. 

According to Times Free Press policy, the paper does not print the names of victims of sexual assaults or minors being tried in juvenile court.

Stoke's decision to allow the 18-year-old assailant to remain in juvenile court, instead of being transferred to adult court, means he faces much more lenient sentencing today.

Stay with the Times Free Press for updates in this developing story.