Three women are accusing Rep. David Byrd of sexual misconduct while they were teenagers on the high school basketball team he coached more than 30 years ago.
The state representative apologized to one of his accusers in a secretly-recorded phone conversation, that was given to the News 4 I-Team after the fact.
Two hours before a News 4 I-Team investigation was set to air, Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, asked Byrd to resign.
"Speaker Harwell believes Byrd should step down," said Kara Owen, a spokeswoman for Harwell. "She has spoken to him directly and asked him to step down. The allegations are not related to his service in the legislature."
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally is also calling for Byrd to resign.
McNally's communications director issued this statement on his behalf: "Lt. Governor McNally fully supports the actions of Speaker Harwell. He believes it is in the best interest of the General Assembly that Rep. Byrd resign."
A spokesman for Byrd said Tuesday night after the I-Team report that the representative is not resigning and intends to fight a majority of the allegations of sexual misconduct.RELATED STORY: House speaker calls on lawmaker to resign
“He was like, ‘You owe me, you owe me, I been thinking about what I want, I want to see you naked,” Rice said.
That secret concerned her then-28-year-old basketball coach at Wayne County High School, who went on to become a state representative.
Now, two other players from the same school and same class say they’ve kept secrets about Byrd, too.
"It's an embarrassing part of my past I wish to forget," said Robbie Cain, who graduated in 1988.
While Byrd isn't talking, these three women from the class of 1988 are speaking.
Prompted by the "Me Too" movement, three former teammates are going public with what they say they've only told friends and loved ones, detailing what they say was sexual misconduct at the hands of their former coach.
For more than 30 years, they knew it was their word against his until last month when Rice decided she'd had enough.
Not only did Rice call her former coach, she secretly recorded the conversation.
“I can promise you one thing, I have been so sorry for that,” says Byrd, who identified himself at the beginning of the recording. “I've lived with that and you don't know how hard it has been for me.”
To understand why Rice would confront a state lawmaker, listen to what she said he did to her when she was a 15-year-old player.
“Did he ever touch you inappropriately?” asked reporter Alanna Autler.
“Yes,” Rice said.
"Where did he touch you?" Autler asked.
“My breast and below the belt, as well, once,” Rice said.
She said Byrd touched her over her clothes and in one case, tried to pull her hand toward his genitals while they were kissing in an office after practice, according to Rice.
Rice said Byrd also kissed her at least ten times during her sophomore year.
They mostly kissed after practice on school property, but on one occasion they kissed outside her house, according to Rice.
When she made the call to him in February 2018, she did not mince words.
“David, you know exactly what happened 30 years ago,” Rice said. “I don't know what happened between the others.”
“Well, now there’s no others,” Byrd said.
But Cain and another former player who asked to remain anonymous for her own safety said they are the others.
One former player said she is ashamed she didn't speak up about what happened when she was 16.
She said the incident occurred in a hotel room during an out-of-town basketball trip.
She said she wandered into Byrd's hotel room after seeing him with another girl. She told the I-Team her room was adjoined to his.
When sat down on the bed, Byrd started to give her a massage, according to the former player.
“When I laid down he positioned himself to where his penis was between my butt cheeks and he started rubbing my back and then he put his hands under my shoulders to rub me, and he went to the sides of my breasts underneath my arms,” she said.
The player said she got up and returned to her room after another player knocked on the door.
She said while she was brushing her teeth in her bathroom, Byrd entered the room and came up behind her.
“His hands were on my shoulders and he said, ‘What about my goodnight kiss?’ I just ignored him and then he turned me to face him. He said, ‘Do I not get a good night kiss?’”
The former player said she said no, pushed away from him, and left the room.
Robbie Cain, who now lives in Kentucky, said at 15, she found herself alone with Byrd in a hotel swimming pool on another out-of-town trip in Nashville during the summer of 1986.
She claimed Byrd tried to touch her genital area.
“His words were: ‘I want you to feel how you make me feel. I want you to feel it throbbing,’” Cain said.
“Why come out more than 30 years later?” Autler asked.
“I hate to say it, but I ran,” Cain said. “I ran from it and I never looked back.”
“There are going to be people who watch this and will not believe you,” Autler said to Rice.
“Oh, I know that,” Rice said. “I just really feel like I couldn't live with myself if the truth didn't come out.”
Again, in the recorded call, Byrd denies anything happened with other students.
Even with Rice, Byrd never explicitly details what he did to her. But he does profusely apologize.
“I wish I had a do-over because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would’ve never happened,” Byrd said. “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.”
“It's one of those things I've really beaten myself up and I don't know if you believe that or not,” Byrd continued. “But I do. All the time. There hasn't been a Sunday that’s gone by when I’m doing my communion and everything and I’m asking forgiveness for sins, my sins, that’s one of the things that I do.”
Byrd agreed to do an interview with the I-Team on Monday. But when he backed out on Sunday night, the I-Team tracked him down at the state capitol.
“Representative, did you initiate inappropriate sexual contact with your former teenage players?” Autler asked.
Byrd walked away from the I-Team without responding.
The News 4 I-Team intended to ask Byrd, R-Waynesboro, what he was apologizing for and why Rice said at 15, she became uncoachable.
“I actually worshipped the ground you walked on as a coach,” Rice told Byrd in the recording. “Straight up. But then after that happened, you know, I didn't respect you and you can't say, ‘Do this or do that.’ That was my way of saying, ‘No, I don't have to.’ That was very confusing for a 15-year-old.”
“I know. I know,” Byrd said. “Like I say, I just look back and I don't understand myself.”
None of the accusers have donated money to Byrd's political opponents, according to a review of campaign finance disclosures.
All three accusers also said they never worked for any of Byrd’s political opponents.
In fact, Byrd faced no challengers in the 2016 election. In 2014, he defeated a primary candidate. He went unopposed in the general election.
The I-Team also heard from more than a dozen of Byrd’s other former players who said they had no knowledge of this happening to them or others.
If you have just experienced a rape of sexual assault, you can visit sacenter.org or call the 24-hour crisis and support line at 1-800-879-1999.
The day after the News4 I-Team's investigation aired, Rep. Byrd issued a statement on the allegations against him:“First, let me say that I have done nothing wrong or inappropriate during my term as state representative for the 71st District, which I proudly serve. I am disappointed that Speaker Harwell so quickly publicly turned her back on me but understand her political posture.
Second, these recent allegations of inappropriate contact, never before made, date back over three decades ago and are disheartening to me, and my family. One must question the motives of these three former students out of the hundreds of students I have coached.
Conduct over 30 years ago is difficult, at best, to recall, but as a Christian, I have said and I will repeat that if I hurt or emotionally upset any of my students I am truly sorry and apologize.
I do not condone sexually inappropriate behavior and hope that my behavior over the last 30 years bears that out. I ran for office, not for opportunity for myself but for the opportunity to help others and provide a service to this district. I understand that my stances on some issues in the House are controversial and I knew that I would have opponents who would seek to embellish my character.
Currently, I am working hard for the people of this district and I seek to live in a way that reflects my Biblical beliefs. One of these beliefs rests on the premise that we are all God’s children and should be free from abuse of any kind. I do not believe either of these ladies can show that they made a report to the authorities or received any subsequent mental health counseling for what they have alleged but, again, if my acts or omissions cause them distress I am truly sorry.
I have a wonderful wife and 4 children and regret my desire to represent the good people of this district may have caused them the pain these allegations have brought about.
However, I feel I am a man of integrity, faith in God and family and can continue to be the kind of representative the people of the 71st District can trust.
I will have nothing further to say on the matter, and I hope to get back to the business of representing the good people of Hardin, Wayne, Lewis and Lawrence Counties.”Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.