5 play­ers face at­tempted rape charges

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY BEN BENTON STAFF WRITER

ALTAMONT, Tenn. — Five Grundy County High School foot­ball play­ers are charged with at­tempted ag­gra­vated rape af­ter an as­sault on a fresh­man team­mate at the school some­time be­fore 6 a.m. CDT Wed­nes­day.

At a news con­fer­ence, Grundy County Sher­iff Clint Shrum said all five youths, ages 15 to 17, will re­main at their homes with an­kle mon­i­tors pend­ing a court hear­ing Mon­day.

Twelfth Ju­di­cial Dis­trict As­sis­tant Dis­trict At­tor­ney David McGovern said pros­e­cu­tors have not de­ter­mined whether they will be charged as adults.

The sher­iff said the five — a fresh­man, three ju­niors and a se­nior — are ac­cused of at­tempt­ing to rape a 15-year-old fresh­man with the me­tal han­dle of a dust mop in the school’s foot­ball field­house.

Shrum said a to­tal of eight foot­ball play­ers, in­clud­ing the vic­tim, went to the field­house at 5 a.m. Wed­nes­day to work out. It’s un­known how the boys gained ac­cess, he said, but the door was un­locked or blocked open.

Two of those play­ers were in another area of the field­house and have been cleared of wrong­do­ing. Shrum said one of the boys not charged went to sleep in a coaches

room and another was in the field­house film room watch­ing films at the time of the as­sault.

Shrum and sher­iff’s of­fice in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­ter­viewed the stu­dents, with at least one par­ent and the school’s prin­ci­pal present, to piece to­gether what took place.

The sher­iff de­scribed the in­ci­dent as “dis­turb­ing.”

“Af­ter the work­out, a cou­ple of the in­di­vid­u­als be­gan wrestling around,” Shrum said. “At some point, one of these par­tic­i­pants, by their own ad­mis­sion, grabbed a dust mop with a me­tal han­dle and be­gan tap­ping on the leg and the back of the vic­tim. He then passed the dust mop to another in­di­vid­ual.

“It was then that the vic­tim was placed pros­trate on the floor with his arms pulled be­hind his back. His shorts were pulled down and the knee of one of the par­tic­i­pants was placed across the back of the neck of the vic­tim as this oc­curred,” Shrum said.

“Another par­tic­i­pant held the vic­tim’s legs while he and a third par­tic­i­pant used a me­tal dust mop han­dle to as­sault the vic­tim,” the sher­iff said. “As this hap­pened, another par­tic­i­pant used a phone to record the in­ci­dent.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­trieved the cell phone record­ing of the as­sault, in which the vic­tim could clearly be heard shout­ing, “Stop, stop,” Shrum said.

Shrum said there were no adults present when the as­sault hap­pened and none of the boys had per­mis­sion to be in the field­house at that hour.

The school re­source of­fi­cer and coach re­ported the in­ci­dent to the prin­ci­pal at 9:55 a.m. Wed­nes­day and then started pulling stu­dents out of classes and con­duct­ing in­ter­views, Shrum said.

“At 1 p.m., the SRO re­al­ized it was more than he could han­dle, so he con­tacted me,” Shrum said.

Grundy County hasn’t in­ves­ti­gated a “haz­ing” in­ci­dent that led to charges be­fore, Shrum said, not­ing that “haz­ing” isn’t a crim­i­nal charge. In­stead, his of­fice is fo­cus­ing on el­e­ments of the in­ci­dent that led to the charge of at­tempted ag­gra­vated rape.

Shrum said none of the ac­cused boys ap­peared to show much re­morse in in­ter­views with in­ves­ti­ga­tors, apart from con­cern over be­ing caught.

“We did have a cou­ple of in­di­vid­u­als cry,” he said.

The five teens will ap­pear be­fore Ju­ve­nile Court Judge Trey An­der­son on Mon­day, he said.

The sher­iff said peo­ple in the com­mu­nity are upset.

“There’s a lot of mixed emo­tions right now. I do not think that there’s any­one in the com­mu­nity that does not want to see the right thing done,” Shrum said.

Di­rec­tor of Schools Jessie Kin­sey did not re­spond to a call re­quest­ing com­ment on Thurs­day. Shrum said Kin­sey was made aware of the time and place for the press con­fer­ence but told the sher­iff that she “was not al­lowed to at­tend the press con­fer­ence.”

How­ever, Grundy County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion Chair­man Bob Foster re­sponded via email to a re­quest for com­ment Thurs­day evening.

“The re­cent events in­volv­ing ath­letes at the high school are cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the dis­trict at­tor­ney gen­eral, the sher­iff, and the de­part­ment of chil­dren’s ser­vices,” Foster wrote. “Due to these on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and the in­volve­ment of mi­nors, upon the ad­vice of coun­sel, the board can­not have any com­ment on the mat­ter. It should be un­der­stood that no mem­ber of the board has been au­tho­rized to speak for the board and any state­ment by an in­di­vid­ual board mem­ber should be con­sid­ered as a pri­vate com­ment for which the mem­ber will be per­son­ally li­able.”

Shrum also warned mem­bers of the Grundy County com­mu­nity to be care­ful about any com­ments they make pub­licly, be­cause if in­ves­ti­ga­tors hear any re­marks that sound cred­i­ble, the per­son mak­ing them could end up tes­ti­fy­ing about what they know.

Fall break be­gins to­day, and stu­dents re­turn to school Oct. 23.

WRCB-TV Chan­nel 3 re­ported that head foot­ball coach Casey Tate has been sus­pended while the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues.

Tonight’s foot­ball game at Up­per­man High School in Put­nam County is still on with as­sis­tant coach Greg Brewer serv­ing as act­ing head coach, ac­cord­ing to Foster’s email.

Foster said a spe­cial called school board meet­ing is set for Mon­day at 6 p.m. CDT at the high school to dis­cuss the school’s foot­ball pro­gram. He said the school board’s at­tor­ney will be there, too.

The in­ci­dent in Grundy County is eerily sim­i­lar to the rape in Gatlin­burg that in­volved a pool cue and three Oolte­wah High School bas­ket­ball play­ers who as­saulted a fresh­man team­mate on Dec. 22, 2015. The three for­mer play­ers were found guilty in Au­gust 2016, one on ag­gra­vated rape charges and two on charges of ag­gra­vated as­sault.

Clint Shrum

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