Gatlinburg Detective Rodney Burns Indicted On 2 Aggravated Perjury Counts

Friday, May 20, 2016
Detective Rodney Burns
Detective Rodney Burns
- photo by Dennis Norwood

The Hamilton County Grand Jury has indicted Gatlinburg Police Department Detective Rodney Burns on two counts of  aggravated perjury.

The charges stem from Detective Burns' testimony during a preliminary hearing on Monday, Feb. 15, in Hamilton County Juvenile Court, the indictment says.

He testified in connection with charges against three Ooltewah High officials in connection with aggravated rape charges involving Ooltewah High basketball team members.

Aggravated perjury is a Class D felony and carries a sentence of 2-4 years behind bars.  

After his testimony, District Attorney Neal Pinkston asked the TBI to investigation alleged perjury by the detective.

Detective Burns later brought a $300,000 claim against District Attorney Pinkston, saying he had defamed his character. That action was filed in the State Division of Claims Administration in Nashville.

The TBI said Friday, "Special agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have obtained indictments for a Gatlinburg Police Department detective accused of making false statements during a Juvenile Court proceeding.

"At the request of 11th District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, TBI special agents began investigating Floyd Rodney Burns on Feb. 17. During the course of the investigation, Agents developed information, that on Feb. 15, Burns offered testimony in a juvenile hearing that was not truthful.

"On Monday, at the request of General Pinkston, agents presented case information to the Hamilton County Grand Jury, who returned indictments, charging the 55-year-old Gatlinburg man with two counts of aggravated perjury.

"Today, he turned himself into the Hamilton County Jail, where he was subsequently released after posting $2,500 bond."

Three members of the Ooltewah High team were charged in the incident in which a pool cue was inserted into the rectum of a freshman player, who was seriously injured but later recovered.

Charges of failing to report the incident were brought against coach Andre Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and athletic director Jesse Nayadley. Nayadley was given pre-trial diversion, but charges were taken to the Grand Jury against Montgomery.

The District Attorney's office is reporting a report on an alleged culture of hazing at Ooltewah High School.

Detective Burns in his testimony before Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw said the case "appeared to be kids being kids - a hazing thing. It was something stupid that kids do and shouldn't have been done."

He praised the action of the three defendants, saying they were very helpful in handling of the case.

He said attacks against three other players on the team were not charged as rapes, but as assaults, because their clothing was not penetrated as in the case of the 15-year-old who was seriously injured. He said all were clothed and the case did not involve "sexual gratification."

Detective Burns said he had worked all day and was on call when he was called by his sergeant at 12:20 a.m. on Dec. 23 about an incident at a rental cabin. He said the injured player was checked out at the medical facility at Gatlinburg, but it did not appear that he was badly hurt. He said medical personnel said he would be sore, but should be okay.

He said it was felt the boy should not return to stay at the cabin, but he went to retrieve his belongings. He said the boy walked gingerly down some steps, then collapsed. An ambulance was then called and he was eventually transferred to a Knoxville hospital, where he stayed over a week.

The detective said the boy stated that he had gone downstairs the night of the incident, then three older players came in his room. He said two held him down, while the third used the pool cue on him. He said the cue went through his clothing into his rectum.

He said the boy cried out, causing the three assailants to immediately leave the room. The coach was then summoned. He said the boy did not initially say what happened to cause his injury.

Detective Burns said the boy bagged up the clothes he had been wearing because he was embarrassed that feces was on them. He said the wife of coach Montgomery threw the clothes in the trash. He said they were later retrieved as evidence.

The detective said he found that the pool cue that was used in the attack was later used by some of the players in a pool game. The pool cues were finally collected.

The witness said he noticed that none of the pool cues had ends that were broken off. He said the item that was retrieved from the victim's rectum turned out to be a piece of fabric from his clothing. He said that showed "this case is much smaller that what it's blown up to be."  

He said the other boys had some clothes on and some were in a hot tub when they got the pool cue treatment. He said those incidents were at different days during the holiday trip.

The detective said the wife of coach Montgomery helped him arrange interviews with the players and get permission from their parents. He said several of the boys told of being bullied by the older players during the season after they joined the team following the end of the football season.

He said the player who was hospitalized said the teammate described as "the main perpetrator" had come up to him in a study hall and hit him. He said he hit the player back, and he felt he was marked after that "for standing up to him."

Detective Burns said he called the Department of Childrens Services on Christmas Eve to report the incident, but got no answer. He said, in some cases, that DCS can complicate and interfere with police probes. He said in one case DCS told one individual he had been cleared, when he had not.

He said the juvenile judge in Sevier County was quickly advised of the situation and petitions were taken against the three.

Detective Burns said he was present when it was decided to have the three charged players to be allowed to go to their homes. He said the father of Montgomery drove them home to Chattanooga.

He said the coaches and AD "were fully cooperative. There wasn't any coverup or anything like that." He said Montgomery "was very forthcoming and cooperative. He was in a state of shock over the whole thing."

District Attorney Pinkston, who brought the charges, told the detective, "You seem to be minimizing all of this."




Neal Pinkston
Neal Pinkston

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