Attorneys representing Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner filed a civil suit Friday against an Arizona man and woman who accused him of breaking NCAA rules.
In the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Pima County, Arizona, the attorneys claimed former Tech booster Ron Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, “began a malicious campaign to defame Pastner, and to extort and blackmail Pastner, by threatening to release and releasing to the public, the media, Georgia Tech and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), false and patently untrue information Bell and Pendley believed and intended would be extremely damaging to Pastner’s reputation and would result in Pastner losing his job at Georgia Tech and being penalized by the NCAA.”
Among other accusations, Bell accused Pastner of sexually assaulting Pendley, which Pastner’s attorneys denied in the lawsuit. Bell made a similar accusation about Pastner during telephone conversations with ESPN.
“I am disgusted and devastated by the actions of two individuals to whom I showed compassion,” Pastner said in a statement. “My family and I are victims of fraud and extortion and the extent to which these individuals have gone to harm us is truly unfathomable. I absolutely and unequivocally never assaulted or harassed Ms. Pendley and I am truly sickened by these false claims.”
In a Nov. 7 report by CBS Sports, Bell alleged that he had provided Georgia Tech basketball players Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson with improper benefits by paying for them to fly to his home in Tucson, Arizona, and paying for their meals at a restaurant in Atlanta. Bell also alleged he sent the players shoes and shirts that he purchased online.
After becoming aware of Bell’s allegations on Oct. 2, Pastner said he reported the violations to Georgia Tech’s compliance department. Tech officials self-reported the violations to the NCAA, and the school declared Okogie and Jackson ineligible for competition at the start of the season. The NCAA suspended Okogie for six games and Jackson for three. They also required the players to repay the amounts of the benefits they received.
“Much of the information Bell and Pendley threatened to release and did release was known by Bell and Pendley to be materially false, inaccurate and misleading, and Bell and Pendley intended that Pastner would be threatened, blackmailed and extorted into paying them money in order to prevent the information from being disclosed to the public, the media, Georgia Tech and the NCAA,” the lawsuit said.
Bell, who served four years in prison from 2009 to 2013 following his conviction on felony drug charges, told ESPN that he met Pastner while Pastner was working as an assistant coach at Arizona. According to the lawsuit, Bell told Pastner that he was ill with cancer in June 2014 and asked for his emotional support.
“No matter what, I am your biggest and most ardent supporter,” Bell wrote in an email to Pastner in August 2015, according to the lawsuit. “I always have your back Josh. That’s because I believe in you and what you stand for. You are what’s truly great about intercollegiate athletics. Your passion is infectious.
“The truth is that I am a better man with you in my life. You give new…