Alleged Sexual Assault Hazing Incident Leads to Criminal Charges Against Athletic Officials at Tennessee High School
A police detectives downplayed the sexual nature of the attack during a court hearing Monday in Chattanooga
Three Tennessee high school officials have been arrested for allegedly failing to properly report an alleged hazing incident that left a 15-year-old freshman basketball player seriously injured, prompting aggravated rape and assault charges against three of his teammates.
A statement from the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office confirms the arrests of Ooltewah High School basketball coach Andre Montgomery, assistant coach Karl Williams and athletic director Allard Nayadley.
All three defendants are charged with failure to report child sexual abuse. They pleaded not guilty during a court appearance in Chattanooga on Monday.
On Dec. 22, 2015, three Ooltewah High School basketball players – whose names haven’t been released because they’re juveniles – allegedly sodomized a freshman teammate with a wooden pool cue, police say. The stick punctured the freshman victim’s colon, requiring emergency surgery to save his life, according to investigators.
The alleged incident occurred in a cabin in Gatlinburg, where the team was staying while participating in a basketball tournament, police say.
The case will be turned over to a grand jury for possible indictment, sources tell PEOPLE.
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The Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office alleges Montgomery, Williams, and Nayadley violated the Tennessee statute requiring school officials report suspected child sexual abuse to the state Department of Children’s Services, the sheriff or police chief where the victim resides, or the appropriate juvenile court.
Investigators say the officials did not comply with the law because after bringing the child to the hospital, they contacting authorities in Sevier County, where the alleged hazing took place.
Prosecutors are also exploring “allegations of an ingrained culture of violence” at the school, which allegedly dates back “several years,” the statement says. Authorities say additional charges are possible.
Police Detective Downplays Sexual Nature of Alleged Incident
But during Monday’s court hearing, witnesses downplayed the sexual nature of the attack and testified that school officials responded appropriately to the alleged incident, according to multiple reports.
Rodney Burns, a Gatlinburg police detective, testified during Monday’s hearing that the case “is much smaller than what it’s been blown up to be.”
Fox News reports that Burns characterized the incident as “something stupid that kids do that shouldn’t have been done,” but added “it wasn’t done for sexual gratification or really sexual in nature. It was an assault, really. It just happened that the end result fit the definition of aggravated rape.”
According to ESPN, Williams’ lawyer, Johnny Houston, told the judge his client worked as a volunteer and never received formal training on how to respond to incidents involving sexual abuse.
Lee Davis, the attorney for Nayadley, said Monday he doesn’t “think there’s any way you can find fault with these three men in how they reacted to a terrible situation at a Christmas tournament,” according to CBS News.
After the allegations, administrators at Ooltewah High School cancelled the basketball season.