Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston never violated a "clearly established constitutional right" while prosecuting former Ooltewah High School employees for the 2015 rape of a student, his attorney says.
Securing criminal indictments against Andrew "Tank" Montgomery, Allard "Jesse" Nayadley and Karl Williams in connection with the rape of a freshman basketball student in December 2015 fell within Pinkston's rights as a state official, an attorney with the Tennessee State Attorney's Office wrote in his response on Sept. 1.
Like the other defendants who responded to the civil rights violations that Nayadley, Montgomery, former Ooltewah principal Jim Jarvis and their wives filed in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court in June, Pinkston wants to be dismissed from the $6.5 million lawsuit because, he maintains, he acted within the scope of his duties.
Montgomery and Nayadley, however, claimed Pinkston's prosecution was "unnecessary, illegal and inappropriate" for two primary reasons, court records show: One, the statute for failure to report child sexual abuse didn't apply to the age group of the students in question. Two, the incident happened outside of Pinkston's jurisdiction in Sevier County, Tenn.
Criminal Court Judge Don Poole ultimately dismissed Montgomery's four counts of failure to report child sexual abuse in December 2016 for the first reason, while Nayadley received an alternative sentence program called "diversion" that dropped and erased his charges earlier that year.
In her response, however, Pinkston's attorney said the Tennessee statute for reporting child abuse calls on a teacher or school official to speak to the law enforcement agency doing the investigation, as well as "the office of the sheriff or the chief law enforcement official for the municipality where the child resides."
"The victim was a student of Ooltewah High School, which is located in Hamilton County," said Assistant Attorney General Jaclyn McAndrew. "Therefore, the predicate act was completed in, among other places, Hamilton County, vesting jurisdiction in the Hamilton County Criminal Court."
Though Poole may have ruled against Pinkston when he dismissed the case in 2016, that doesn't add up to "a violation of clearly established rights," McAndrew continued.
"At most, General Pinkston was mistaken in his reading of the statutes," McAndrew wrote. "But his interpretation was reasonable. And, plaintiffs concede that General Pinkston did not knowingly violate the law, but, rather, relied upon his interpretation of the statutes."
The next step is for the employees' attorney to respond if he wishes, and then U.S. District Court Judge Travis McDonough will rule on the motions to dismiss now that every defendant has responded. The defendants include Hamilton County, the Hamilton County Department of Education, the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office, former Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith, the Department of Child Services and Pinkston.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.relatedarticlethumb