NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee House speaker says he won’t take steps to oust a Rep. David Byrd who has been accused of sexual assault years before taking office.
It comes after a just-released opinion Speaker Cameron Sexton requested from the state attorney general.
“We asked the AG (attorney general) for the opinion because we felt like it was unprecedented,” said Speaker Sexton on Thursday.
The question, without naming Rep. Byrd, was whether or not state lawmakers could remove a member for allegations that occurred before taking office.
“The attorney general said that he would cautiously advise against going down that road and so we are going to heed the advice of Tennessee’s chief legal expert,” added Speaker Sexton.
More than a year and a half ago, allegations surfaced against Rep, Byrd that he sexually abused three female basketball players he coached in the mid-1980s in Wayne County.
The state attorney general in the opinion released Wednesday counseled against removing a legislative member.
“When the misconduct complained of occurred before the member’s election and was generally known to the public at the time of the election.”
Rep. Byrd was overwhelmingly re-elected last year, months after the allegations surfaced.
Last year, in a rare interview about the matter, the lawmaker who often was called “Coach,” spoke about the support he had from other players.
“They have contacted me and I told them I was going to let them do what they were going to do,” said Rep. Byrd in April 2018. “I just wanted them to tell how I was when I coached them.”
Rep. Byrd said 66 former players he coached signed a letter of support, but the lawmaker was later removed from the committee he chaired by then-House Speaker Glen Casada.
Byrd has not officially said if he will seek re-election, but some news outlets have reported he has privately told House colleagues he will not run again.