UPDATE: Hamilton County DA office to investigate Ooltewah teammate rape case
Three Ooltewah High School basketball players who reportedly injured a freshman teammate are being investigated by Gatlinburg Police and Hamilton County school officials.
UPDATE: The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office released this statement announcing they will investigate the Ooltewah basketball rape case.
"The Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office along with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will investigate allegations some upper class members and/or former members of the Ooltewah High School boys’ basketball team assaulted freshman teammates prior to the December incident in Sevier County, Tennessee, that left one player critically injured and three others charged with attacking him.
At present no one has contacted Hamilton County law enforcement to formally report any criminal behavior having taken place in Hamilton County by anyone associated with the OHS boys’ basketball team. However, recent media reports cite family members of OHS freshman basketball players who accuse upper class teammates of an ongoing pattern of assaults allegedly committed under the guise of hazing.
District Attorney General Neal Pinkston asked the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office to work with his investigators to determine if any of the accusations reported by media can be substantiated and if so to determine the proper jurisdiction for prosecution.
If anyone has knowledge of any crimes related to this investigation having taken place within Hamilton County, they should call the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office at 423-209-7000.
General Pinkston will have nothing else to say about this until the investigation is completed. He has asked HCSO to also refrain from public comment while the investigation is conducted."
Also, Bernard Childress, executive director of the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletics Assocation (TSSAA) said, "TSSAA has no authority to deal with off the field disciplinary issues involving students. That is totally left up to the administration of the school."
PREVIOUS STORY: The Hamilton County School Board will meet in Executive Session at 5:30 p.m. Wed. January 6 "to hear from attorneys regarding matters needing the attention of the Board. Executive sessions are closed sessions." In addition, a Special Called Session has been scheduled for 6:00 p.m. or immediately following the Executive Session. The purpose of the Special Called Session will be for consideration of action regarding the Ooltewah High boys basketball team and for review of school board policy and procedures regarding bullying and hazing.
READ MORE | Commentary from David Carroll
Sources tell Eyewitness News that at least one Hamilton County school official was dispatched to Gatlinburg in recent days to find out more about the case.
PREVIOUS STORY: Three juveniles who are facing aggravated rape and aggravated assault charges will not be returning to Ooltewah High School, according to Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith.
The juveniles were members of the Ooltewah High School basketball team. One is a senior, and the other two are sophomores. Police say the victim is a freshman player.
The incident reportedly happened during the Smoky Mountain Classic Basketball Tournament. Two of the three are being held in the Sevier County Juvenile Facility. The third was granted bond, according to the victim's grandmother.
Family members tell Channel 3, the victim was treated and released from UT Medical Center in Knoxville, after an eight-day stay. The victim's grandmother says the boy "is doing better, trying to walk." Sources say two other players were also injured by teammates, although their injuries were not as severe.
The three basketball players, now dismissed from the team are accused of assaulting their teammate with a pool cue over Christmas break. Police say the incident happened at a cabin in Gatlinburg, where the team was staying for a game. The victim needed surgery for his injuries.
"I'm just heartbroken, I'm so sorry this happened," said Rhonda Thurman, Hamilton County School Board member. "I just don't know what to say. I'm just sorry."
Thurman is outraged, that although the accused boys were immediately kicked off the team, it is taking several days for a central office decision on punishment.
"I'm furious because the board hasn't been told the details, and what we don't know is maddening to me," said Thurman. She says the entire team should have come home from Gatlinburg immediately after the incident.
"If this is what it's come to, then we need to reconsider why we have sports in school," said Thurman. "We need to send a clear message that if there is any hazing of any kind going on in any sport, your season is terminated immediately."
Thurman wants an emergency meeting to discuss the school district's policy. Superintendent Rick Smith describes it as a "tragic situation" and says the three accused will not be back in school anytime soon. Smith says meetings and decisions will need to wait until everyone returns from break on Monday.
"I wasn't elected to guard the cat litter box, to cover up crap, that is not why I'm here," said Thurman. " I'm here to represent taxpayers and they want this dealt with swiftly. He could have died. It's a miracle he did not die."
Superintendent Smith says the charges most definitely warrant a long-term suspension. The offense does fall under the school's zero tolerance policy which could mean a full year of suspension at the very least. Meanwhile the Ooltewah team has continued to play its regular schedule, coached by Andre "Tank" Montgomery. The team has played in 3 games since the alleged assault.
PREVIOUS STORY: Gatlinburg, Tennessee police confirm three juveniles have been charged with aggravated rape and aggravated assault. They are being held in the Sevier County Juvenile Facility.
A bond hearing was set for Wednesday, Dec. 30. The juveniles were members of the Ooltewah High School basketball team, and the victim is a freshman player.
He was treated and released from UT Medical Center in Knoxville, after an eight-day stay. A family member tells Eyewitness News, "It was a horrific incident. His surgery went well, but he has a long road to recovery." The family member says two other students were also assaulted, "but their injuries were not as serious."
The three juveniles have been dismissed from the team, but county school officials say they will have no statement on punishment from the school district until after the holidays.
The Ooltewah team continues to play in the Best of Preps classic, having played three games since the players were dismissed.
PREVIOUS STORY: Three Ooltewah High School basketball players who reportedly injured a freshman teammate are being investigated by Gatlinburg Police and Hamilton County school officials. They have been dismissed from the team, which is coached by Andre "Tank" Montgomery. Sources say at least two of the dismissed players are seniors.
Principal Jim Jarvis told Channel 3 Eyewitness News, "A violation of team policy did occur. It is currently under investigation and will be dealt with."
The incident occurred during the Smoky Mountain Classic basketball tournament, which was held Dec. 21-23 at Gatlinburg-Pittman High. The freshman was hospitalized and the three older players have been dismissed from the basketball team. Friends of the injured player told Eyewitness News they are pushing for criminal charges to be filed, but apparently none have been filed at this time.
A Gatlinburg police official said the student was attacked Tuesday night at a rental cabin, and underwent surgery at the University of Tennessee Medical Center to treat his injuries.