A high school substitute teacher who replaced a varsity basketball coach and teacher—put on indefinite leave for his actions regarding a gang rape by athletes—was himself investigated for allegedly sexting with a female pupil before he resigned this month.
Over a year ago, Avery Rollins, 23, was brought in by Ooltewah High School administrators to replace coach Andre “Tank” Montgomery who was suspended after members of his traveling squad led a gang rape during three nights in December 2015. Montgomery was charged with four counts of failure to report child sexual abuse, but a judge dismissed the charges last December.
The basketball trio held down their victims as another plunged a pool cue into their anuses. A 15-year-old boy who put up a struggle, suffered a ruptured colon and bladder. The three athletes charged with assaults were all found guilty—aggravated rape against one male and aggravated assault against the other two—and served some form of jail time.
Only months after the scandal, cops in Collegedale, Tennessee, probed Rollins for allegedly sending “dick picks [sic]” to a 17-year-old female student. Rollins was not charged with soliciting a minor, because the assistant district attorney said there was insufficient evidence.
While Rollins was cleared criminally, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services opened an independent investigation that same month before closing it in May 2016, according to DCS spokesman Rob Johnson. Because the matter related to a minor, details of the action taken, if any, was not able to be provided.
Nonetheless, Rollins resigned on March 7, 2016, serving less than a year as a substitute teacher, according to a Hamilton County Department of Education Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Stacy Stewart.
“He resigned immediately upon the investigation being opened into these activities,” she said.
A police report from the investigation in Collegedale said friends of Rollins’s accuser told a Ooltewah guidance counselor, who then reported the claims internally. Police were then notified about Rollins allegedly sending “inappropropriate SnapChats” to the girl from September to December 2015.
When quizzed, the teen admitted to “SnapChatting with [Rollins], sending nude chats back and forth,” the police report said.
Instead of sending the suggestive images of herself, she said she instead found “nude pictures of someone off the internet” and sent those to Rollins. In return, the girl received “dick pics from him,” police said, and the two “planned to meet for sex on three separate occasions.”
In the girl and Rollins’s first attempt to have sex, a cop wrote the teen said she “fell asleep” and on the second time “they got in an argument.” And the third time, the cop said based on her statements that she “chickened out.”
The substitute teacher and the teen were both questioned by two Collegedale detectives and at one point, according to the police report, when one of the detectives dismissed himself, Rollins copped to “dick pics from his SnapChat…”
But when reached by The Daily Beast last week, Rollins adamantly denied any knowledge about the accusations.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
He insisted that he never sent any sexts to any teen.
“They’re wrong,” he said. “It didn’t happen.”
The last post Rollins held was substituting for coach Andre Montgomery’s physical education class.
The Rollins resignation after the sexting accusations comes in the wake of a scathing 23-page report filed by last year by Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston (PDF).
It details how bad turned to worse when the Ooltewah basketball team took an unapproved trip to compete in the 20th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountain Christmas Classic in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Teenage teammates were left alone over a series of three evenings dating from Dec. 20-22. In the late hours three seniors led a series of nightly rapes by preying upon the team’s four freshmen players who were “beaten with pool cues in separate attacks,” according to the the Hamilton County prosecutor’s report. The most severe beatdown and rape culminating on Dec. 22.
Montgomery had taken on the trip his 12-year-old daughter and his wife, as well as volunteer assistant coach Karl Williams and Assistant Principal Jesse Nayadley.
When the adults left the cabin they shared “for several hours” to fetch groceries, the seniors apparently had “free reign to assault the freshmen,” according to the report.
Over the course of Dec. 20 until Dec. 22, 2015, “all four freshman were tossed fully clothed into the cabin’s hot tub.”
Freshmen who resisted were “overpowered” and each was “beaten with pool cues in separate attacks... And all four were raped with pool cues in separate incidents,” according to the report.
The three freshman who didn’t go the hospital “were nonetheless beaten and raped” and the five players who idled while the sodomy took place “were also impacted by the brutality they witnessed,” according to the prosecutor’s report.
When one freshmen came forward and tattled to coach Montgomery, he reamed out the team, according to a source with close ties to the Ooltewah team.
Shouting didn’t stop the rapists though.
That teen was soon ambushed by two sophomores: one, a “thick, muscular” 16-year-old (who also plays on the varsity football team), pinned the “scrawny” freshman down, which allowed the team’s 17-year-old senior to allegedly violate him with the pool cue stick, multiple sources told The Daily Beast last year.
All the while a fourth teammate captured the brutal incident on his smartphone, a source close to the investigation and an Ooltewah source said.
Only when it was clear one of the 15-year-old victims was “seriously injured,” according to the prosecutor’s report, did the two coaches decide to shuttle him to the hospital. The boy was subsequently released.
Nonetheless, an assistant prosecutor in Sevier County decided the injured boy should return home, the report adds. And then as the boy was gathering his belongings to return home “he passed out” and was rushed back to the same medical center that released him. The boy was then transferred for “emergency surgery” at University of Tennessee Medical Center, the report states.
The report accuses coach Montgomery of failing to adequately chaperone and protect the boys who couldn’t fend for themselves.
Montgomery’s attorney declined to answer questions from The Daily Beast about the allegations involving Rollins and saying instead he would ask the coach if he wanted to speak about the rape scandal at Ooltewah. Montgomery hasn’t responded.
According to the report, kids had routinely been subject to a culture of hazing rituals known at the school known as the “Freshman Rack.”
Elder athletes targeted younger counterparts, and would often flip the lights off in the locker room and in the dark “players pummel the freshmen with their fists,” the report details.
During two interviews with investigators, Nayadley “denied receiving any prior complaints of hazing or assaultive behavior,” telling them, “No, never,” and, “Never ever.” But when pressed Nayadley ultimately came clean and the Hamilton County prosecutor claimed in his report he “faxed us his own handwritten notes detailing parents’ complaints of hazing assaults.”
Most damning of all is the revelation that the teen who suffered the worst of the pool stick assaults confessed to investigators that he was targeted at school prior to the unspeakable night in the cabin.
“His rapist began punching him during the study hall period,” the report said. “When the victim hit back, he was told freshmen were supposed to take the abuse without retaliating.”
The prosecutor goes on to accuse coach Montgomery and his wife of a “cover up.” The report blasts them both for trashing the most severely injured victim’s soiled clothing, and claims his wife also “apparently cleaned the area where the attack took place, essentially erasing evidence of a crime.”
And the report also claims the coach ordered a vow of silence amongst his players “to not even discuss what happened with their parents,” according to the prosecutor’s interviews he conducted with multiple Ooltewah players.
Coach Montgomery finally reached out to the mother of one of the 15-year-old victims but rather than admit his team committed atrocities, he instead “downplayed the situation.” The mother, according to the prosecutor’s report, “did not realize the serious nature of what had happened to her son” and didn’t object to permitting him to remain with the team.
Despite the attack that sidelined an Ooltewah player, Assistant Principal Nayadley, who by now had informed Hamilton County Department of Education officials of what had transpired, “decided the team should play in the tournament the following morning.”
Yet nobody felt compelled to inform the parents.
The court proceedings to hold coach Montgomery, assistant coach Williams, and Assistant Principal Nayadley accountable for allowing the horrors on their watch, quickly came undone.
All charges against volunteer assistant coach Williams were dropped.
Assistant Principal Nayadley opted to take a pre-trial diversion program, which required him to complete reporting of child abuse training.
And coach Montgomery’s charges were also dropped back in December of last year in large part because the judge presiding over the case took a look at the soft-toothed statute.
“If the victim is between the ages of 13 and 17, then to trigger reporting requirements of the law, the perpetrator must be a member of the household,” Judge Don Poole said.
Tennessee’s reporting law language gave the judge few options.
“It appears to me that the statutes in question possibly are not properly worded and maybe doesn’t come across as the legislature intended,” Poole said.
To that end, the Tennessee Legislature is already beefing-up a rewrite of the reporting law.
“The consensus of everybody is the statute needs to be totally rewritten, not just tweaked,” State Sen. Todd Gardenhire told The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Montgomery is still employed as a teacher with the Hamilton County Department of Education but remains on suspension indefinitely, a spokeswoman confirmed.
While the school and its leaders were spared in court but took a hit in the public eye, the cop who first investigated the pool-cue stick rapes has been fighting to preserve his name after he was accused of committing two counts of aggravated perjury.
In an indictment filed on May 18, 2016, by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, authorities accuse Gatlinburg Police Detective Floyd Rodney Burns of making false statements under oath. The statements were documented during a Feb. 15, 2016, juvenile preliminary hearing involving the Ooltewah High School rape incidents.
The detective gave testimony that made light of what was clearly a gang rape: “They were not doing it for sexual gratification… something stupid that kids do… that shouldn’t have been done.”
He was also blamed for contradicting his own police report.
“There was no screams of anguish,” he said in court, despite the fact that his own police report suggested “when the victim yelled out in pain because… Had stuck the pool stick in the victim’s rectum he had let go of him.”
The indictment goes on to note that Burns also mentioned that another subject he interviewed “could hear him yelling when had attacked…”
The cop came under fire for failing to immediately report the rapes to the Department of Children’s Services. “I tried to call them on Christmas Eve and there was no one at the office,” Burns testified.
But then the 25-year veteran cop waffled and said he failed outright to report the rapes saying, “It didn’t fall within the parameters of what we report.”
The cop has since filed a $300,000 defamation lawsuit against Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office.
He specifically cites several “libelous” statements in the form of various press releases that were made by DA Pinkston and published in various media outlets in the course of the youths’ hearing going out of his way to make it loud and clear that he brought in the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into whether Burns “perjured himself” when he took the stand.
“He swore an oath to prosecute crimes, no matter who commits them,” according to Pinkston’s statement shortly after the cop testified.
The civil lawsuit suggests the prosecutor preemptively made such “defamatory statements” undermining Burns’s integrity without consulting him before of after the hearing in question, without receiving “the entire investigation” from the cop, and made “with actual malice” that caused the cop “great damage to his reputation, his active cases have been postponed, [and] he has been ridiculed by the public and media outlets.”
The grandstanding accusations, according to the lawsuit, run counter to Burns’s “sterling reputation” and taken a toll on him to fall into “depression and anxiety.”
The youth who was severely attacked has since transferred from Ooltewah High School to another school and is continuing to play basketball, The Daily Beast has learned.
But another victim, according to a person close to the investigation, has continued to suffer humiliation where friends of the convicted assailants’ have kept dogging the teenage boy.
“[His] friends have been taunting one of the victims when they see him around town.”