What former Rep. Justin Jones meant by ‘admitted child molester who sat in this chamber’ comment

Former Rep. David Byrd was accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers who were members of his high school girls’ basketball team.
WSMV4 Investigates looks back at who Rep. Justin Jones called "an admitted child molester" who wasn't expelled from the House.
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 8:34 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Among all the bombshell moments of the expulsion hearings of the three lawmakers now known as the Tennessee Three, former Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, comment about an “admitted child molester” in the House raised a lot of eyebrows.

“For years, one of your colleagues, an admitted child molester, sat in this chamber. No expulsion,” Jones said.

Jones was referring to former Rep. David Byrd, R-Waynesboro.

A series of WSMV4 Investigations revealed that three women accuse Byrd of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers and he was their basketball coach.

First reported by former WSMV4 investigative reporter Alanna Autler, one of the women, Christie Rice, made a recording of her conversation with Byrd, where he apologized profusely, but never said what exact for.

“But I hope you believe me when I say that it’s one of those things that I think about it all the time, and I always ask forgiveness for it and I hope you forgive me,” Byrd said in the recording.

A series of WSMV4 Investigation then revealed that Michael Edwards, the boys’ basketball coach at the time Byrd was coaching the girls, said that Byrd admitted to him more than 30 years ago that he was inappropriate with a student inside the school.

Edwards told WSMV4 Investigates that after our first story aired, that Byrd called him.

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

When WSMV4 Investigates tried repeatedly to get an interview with Byrd to ask why he had apologized to one of the women, our crew was ultimately removed from Byrd’s office by a state trooper.

Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, then filed a motion to expel Byrd from the House, writing that “disorderly behavior as described by credible victims in multiple reports.”

The motion was ultimately moved to a subcommittee and was never re-introduced.

However, Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, asked then attorney general Herbert Slatery to determine if Byrd could be expelled over sexual assault allegations prior to him becoming a lawmaker.

Slatery ruled that it was possible but he did not recommend it.

Sexton then said in light of Slatery’s opinion, he would not move forward with an expulsion.

Governor Bill Lee then asked Byrd not to run for re-election, but Byrd did anyway and was successfully re-elected before leaving the legislature after becoming severely sick from COVID.