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Knoxville News-Sentinel (Tennessee)
CHATTANOOGA - The federal trial in connection with the pool-cue rape case involving and East Tennessee high school basketball team is scheduled to begin more than two years after the crime.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, the Hamilton County Board of Education and the three former Ooltewah High School employees named in the lawsuit appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Travis McDonough. This was the first federal hearing in the case, which is now scheduled to go to trial June 4, 2018.
"I know this is an emotional case for many reasons on both sides, I bet," McDonough told the attorneys. He also urged them to work efficiently on this case, saying, "we're going to get through this and we aren't going to drag this out."
Two former Ooltewah High School freshman basketball players filed lawsuits in this case last year, claiming that the Hamilton County school system ignored signs of abuse and allowed a culture of bullying and sexual assault to fester at the school, leaving students unprotected.
Both plaintiffs were sexually assaulted by older teammates during a trip to Gatlinburg in December 2015. One of the victims, referred to as "Doe" in court proceedings, was injured so severely he was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery.
The lawsuits seek damages against Hamilton County Schools and the individuals, and both cases are consolidated for the time being, McDonough decided. He noted that the cases can be separated before trial if necessary.
The lawsuits also individually name Ooltewah's former head basketball coach Andre "Tank" Montgomery, former Principal Jim Jarvis and former Athletic Director Allard "Jesse" Nayadley. The second lawsuit filed also names Marsha Drake, who was the district's Title IX coordinator at the time of the rape. Attorneys signaled that the other lawsuit will also likely add Drake to its complaint in coming months.
Douglas Fierberg, an attorney from Washington, D.C., is representing Doe, and argued that many of the facts in the case should not be disputed. He noted how independent investigations conducted by Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston and private attorney Courtney Bullard both concluded that there was a culture of abuse and lack of oversight at the school prior to the incident.
McDonough also strongly advised the attorneys representing the school board and the individuals to file new answers to the complaints against them, saying they need to be more concrete and clear.
In the responses filed, the school board and the individuals claim no responsibility in the case and deny that a culture of abuse existed at the school.
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