Detective Rodney Burns of the Gatlinburg Police Department. WRCBtv.com photo
UPDATE: The lead detective who investigated the rape of an Ooltewah High School basketball player by his teammates says Hamilton County’s district attorney damaged his reputation by publicly accusing him of perjury.
Rodney Burns, a detective at Gatlinburg Police Department, filed a claim for damages against Neal Pinkston this week. Burns is asking the state to award $300,000 in damages.
According to the seven-page claim, filed with the Division of Claims Administration in Nashville, the cases Burns was investigating prior to Pinkston’s allegation have been postponed.
“As a result of General Pinkston’s statements that were made with actual malice, the Claimant has suffered great damage to his reputation, his active cases have been postponed, he has been ridiculed by the public and media outlets,” the claim reads.
Pinkston’s allegation came following a February 15 hearing in Hamilton County Juvenile Court, in which Burns testified. The hearing was a part of the case against three Ooltewah administrators, charged with failing to report the December 23 rape of a player to the proper authorities.
“According to witnesses at the hearing, General Pinkston became opening upset at the Claimant during the hearing based upon the Claimant’s testimony,” the claim states.
Two days later Pinkston released a press release through is spokesperson stating he requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to investigate Burns for perjury related to the statements he made during the February 15 hearing.
Burns claims Pinkston never approached him to discuss the rape case prior and at no time did Pinkston ask for his complete case file for review. Burns says at the time Pinkston “made defamatory statements” he had not received the file that was picked up by the TBI on February 18, a day after Pinkston requested the agency investigate.
Burns also claims Pinkston’s statements lead to more media coverage.
Burns’ testimony in Hamilton County Juvenile Court also sparked response from Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher, who took to Facebook to make it clear he viewed the attack on the Ooltewah player rape, despite Burns saying on the stand it was not because it “was not sexual in nature”.
When WRCB, Channel 3, reached out to Pinkston’s office on Monday night a spokesperson declined to comment on the claim.
Attorney Bryan Delius, who represents Burns, told WBIR in Knoxville his client has suffered because Pinkston has libeled him. He said Burns has an "impeccable record with the courts here in Sevier County."
"(Pinkston) wouldn't tell anyone what the perjurious testimony was," Delius told WBIR.
According to personnel records obtained by Channel 3, Burns has been an employee of Gatlinburg Police Department for 25 years. Performance reviews during that time rank Burns as meeting or exceeding department expectations.
The Gatlinburg Police Department tells Channel 3 Burns has investigated 28 sexual assault cases and 26 rape cases in his 25 years with the department.