NC5 Investigates: TBI director expresses regret over role in UT rape case

NC5 Investigates: TBI director expresses regret over role in UT rape case
Posted at 12:14 PM, Nov 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-12 14:25:54-05

For the first time, the director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is expressing regret over his involvement in a rape investigation of two University of Tennessee football players when he was the police chief in Knoxville. 

David Rausch placed so-called "courtesy calls" to Coach Butch Jones, tipping off the suspects before his detectives ever had a chance to speak with them.

"What I learned more than anything is just because something has been done the way it's always done doesn't mean it's always the right thing," Rausch said last week in a wide-ranging interview with NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

It mark his first comments following a trial where the two ex-players, A.J. Johnson and Micheal Williams, were acquitted of all charges.

Four and a half months after being sworn in as the TBI director, the former Knoxville police chief repeated his insistence that the "courtesy calls" were the way things had always been done.

"Initially, I didn't know what the big deal was," Rausch said.

The issue emerged after Johnson and Williams were accused of rape back in 2014.

"Still, to this day, do I think it impacted the case? Ultimately, no," Rausch insisted. "In talking with the investigator, and I've talked with him since, he'll tell you that it didn't make or break his case. It was one piece of it."

But the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported that investigator Tim Riddle testified in July that the incident let him know that "UT was bigger than this case."

Riddle told jurors that when detectives got to Johnson, hoping to surprise him, the player told him "the coaches let me know what was going on."

The alleged crime scene had also been cleaned up.

"The call that I made was premature, I get that," Rausch said. "If I had the chance to redo it today, I wouldn't have made it as prematurely as I did."

There was also testimony that UT athletic officials were allowed to monitor interviews with other players, and the interviews had to be conducted at the athletic department instead of the police station.

But when Rausch was interviewed by the TBI nominating commission, he was never asked about the controversy -- although Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam has said they did discuss the issue before he appointed Rausch to the job.

"I can tell you that what I learned, quite frankly, is that you know we have to be careful," the TBI director said. "We have to measure what we are doing. We have to be more thoughtful about how we do what we do. So I think that's the biggest lesson that I learned."

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