Friend of Rep. David Byrd claims lawmaker admitted inappropriate relationship

From left, state Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, former girls basketball coach at Wayne County...
From left, state Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, former girls basketball coach at Wayne County High School, Michael Edwards, former boys basketball coach at Wayne County High School, and Christi Rice, one of three to accuse Byrd of sexually touching them or propositioning them while members of the basketball team.(WSMV)
Updated: Oct. 23, 2018 at 6:00 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A longtime friend of state Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro, said the lawmaker admitted to him 30 years ago that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a teenage student.

Michael Edwards, the former boys basketball coach at Wayne County High School, can be heard in a recording saying that Byrd made the admission to him when they were both coaches at the school.

The recording of Edwards was made by Christi Rice, one of three women who claim that Byrd sexually touched them or propositioned them when they were teenagers and he was their basketball coach.

Edwards, who is also a longtime family friend of Rice, said he called her to express his displeasure at the scrutiny she’d been facing since making the claim.

Edwards said he did not want to get in the middle of the scandal and did not know he was being recorded.

However, Edwards confirmed to the News4 I-team that the recording is authentic and he speaks the truth.

In the recording, Edwards goes into detail about remembering him and Byrd having a conversation while both were taking part in an overnight basketball camp.

Edwards recounted in the recording that Byrd told him while the two sat on top of the gym at 3 in the morning keeping watch for someone who was had been bothering the girls at the camp.

Edwards said in the recording that the coaches he and Byrd were working for asked them to keep watch for the person.

Edward recalled that when Byrd recounted the incident with the student that Byrd said it had been snowing that day.

“I don’t care to tell you what he told me,” Edwards told Rice in the call. “He said you all were in the office (at the high school). You all started playing around a little bit. Said you all were trying to figure out somewhere to go like to a hotel or motel or whatever and then for some reason, I don’t remember what he said the reason was, you all backed out.”

Rice told the News4 I-Team she remembered that day, that it was so cold that she was wearing gloves, and that Byrd sexually touched her inside an office in the school.

Edwards also can be heard saying in the conversation that right before the News4 I-Team aired the first story about the accusations that Byrd called him.

“I said, ‘What are you going to do?’ And he said, ‘Well, I’ve already ‘fessed up to my family except my Mom.’ Well, he admitted it right there,” Edwards said.

When that first story aired, featuring Byrd repeatedly apologizing to Rice but never going into detail about what he was apologizing for, Edwards said he understood what Byrd was saying.

“You don’t have to be a genius to know what that meant,” Edwards said in the recording.

The News4 I-Team reached Byrd by phone and detailed Edwards’ comments in the recording, reiterating, as we have each time we’ve done a story, that we needed to do an interview with him.

We have repeatedly asked for an explanation as to what Byrd was apologizing for, and about the statement he issued in response to the accusations in which he said since being in office he has done nothing wrong.

The three women claim the sexual touching came long before he was a lawmaker.

Byrd said he would call us back, but never did.

Instead, Cade Cothren, director of communications for the House Republican Caucus, sent an email, reading in part, “This is another example of politically motivated attack on Rep. Byrd’s family stemming from allegations dating back 30 years ago.”

The News4 I-Team asked Edwards how he reacted to Byrd’s story, if he told anyone at the school about it, but Edwards said it was 30 years ago and he did not remember how he reacted.

Edwards said he still considers both Byrd and Rice a friend.