The disturbing incident that rocked a Tennessee community and led to rape charges against three now-former high school basketball players may not have been as isolated an incident as the lawyer for the school’s coach indicated in a statement Sunday night.
As reported by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the Hamilton County District Attorney in Tennessee has launched an expanded investigation into hazing allegations at Ooltewah High, following allegations that Ooltewah upperclassmen harassed freshmen on the same trip to Gatlinburg that led to rape charges against three members of the team.
The Hamilton County District Attorney released a statement about its renewed investigation, making clear that no one has come forward with specific allegations about other hazing incidents that may have occurred during the team’s December trip, but also indicated that it had read statements from parents of athletes in the media citing attacks with pool cues as well as punches and kicks.
“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 boy’s basketball team,” Melydia Clewell, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s office, wrote in the statement to the media about the investigation. “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.”
The claims of a more developed culture of hazing flies directly in the face of claims made by Ooltewah basketball caoch Andre Montgomery through his lawyer, all of which characterized the hazing incident that led to rape and aggravated assault charges as, “the unilateral decision of three individuals currently charged with a sexual offense.”
Here’s more language that runs counter to the parents’ claim from Montgomery’s lawyer-released statement:
“More importantly, it is critical to our community as a whole and to our injured player that everyone understand that there is no culture of sexual assault at Ooltewah. Similarly, there is no culture of hazing or abuse at Ooltewah where athletes are encouraged or taught to violate the law (or even simple human decency) by teachers, administrators or coaches.
As alleged, this is a terrible and shameful act perpetrated by three individuals.”
Perhaps Montgomery did not know about any of the other alleged incidents, but if so then he was in no place to make such a forceful claim that there was no culture of hazing or sexual assault that permeated the program under his leadership.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed the former players who face charges for their attack will not be returning to the high school.
Either way, it’s now clear that there is more to come out about the incident that occurred in Gatlinburg and the Ooltewah program in general. Sadly, it sure looks like the news is going to get even more troubling before it gets better.