Josh Pastner adamantly disputes sexual assault allegation made against him

The Dagger
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. North Carolina won 80-66. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. North Carolina won 80-66. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

A lawsuit filed Thursday afternoon in Arizona accuses Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner of committing sexual assault while he was the coach at the University of Memphis.

Ron Bell and Jennifer Pendley, estranged friends of Pastner, allege that the coach sexually assaulted Pendley in a Houston hotel room in Feb. 2016.

According to a copy of the lawsuit obtained by KOLD-TV in Tucson, Pastner masturbated in front of Pendley and attempted to force her to have oral sex with him while Bell was in the bathroom taking a shower. Pastner then allegedly harassed and threatened Pendley for nearly a year after that encounter.

The lawsuit Bell and Pendley filed Thursday is a counterclaim in response to a civil lawsuit Pastner filed last month. In that lawsuit, Pastner made a lengthy list of allegations against Bell and Pendley including defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and attempts to blackmail and extort him and his family.

Pastner’s attorney released a statement Thursday on his behalf, insisting that his client “never acted improperly with Ms. Pendley” and calling her sexual assault accusation “a lie.” Attorney Scott Tompsett described the sexual assault allegations as “a last-ditch effort to continue an extortion and blackmail scheme” that began with Bell threatening to expose that Pastner knowingly participated in NCAA violations.

According to Tompsett’s statement, Bell is a multi-time convicted felon with a “long history of abusive, manipulative and controlling behavior toward women.” Tompsett alleges that Bell conceived of the sexual assault allegations against Pastner and persuaded Pendley to go along with it.

“In this era of women courageously coming forward to report valid claims of sexual assault and harassment, we are saddened and outraged that Mr. Bell and Ms. Pendley have concocted a malicious lie to blackmail and harm a family that only showed compassion toward them,” Tompsett said. “Josh will continue to prosecute his legal claims against Mr. Bell and Ms. Pendley, and we will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in their investigation into the couple.”

The relationship between Bell and Pastner is a long, complicated one dating back more than a decade.

They met more than two decades ago when Pastner was a player at Arizona and rekindled their friendship during the past five years. Bell, a recovering addict who spent more than four years in prison from 2009 to 2013, told The Memphis Commercial Appeal in 2016 that he credits Pastner for helping him get clean.

Bell became a regular presence at Memphis during the latter part of Pastner’s tenure and at Georgia Tech during his debut season in Atlanta. The two men subsequently experienced a falling out over a petty dispute that allegedly began with Pastner failing to compensate Bell sufficiently for his efforts to help his program and not calling him on his birthday last year.

In November, Bell provided with documents that show he paid for $750 worth of shoes, clothes and plane tickets for Georgia Tech star Josh Okogie and $525 worth of similar items for Yellowjackets teammate Tadric Jackson. He also insisted he gave more impermissible benefits to the players in the form of hundreds of dollars of meals and groceries.

Georgia Tech self-reported the violations to the NCAA and suspended both players indefinitely. Okogie sat out the Yellowjackets’ first eight games of this season and Jackson missed the first three.

“I just started to realize he’s not a friend,” Bell told in November. “I told him ‘I hold your career in my hands. You’re going to show me respect.’ … I said, ‘I’ve been protecting you for two years. And if you don’t watch yourself, if I start self-reporting, you’re going to be coaching high school basketball.’ And he said, ‘Are you threatening me?’ And I remember it like it was yesterday. I said, ‘Josh, I don’t make threats. Everything I say I’m going to do, I do it.’”

Pastner was on the sideline coaching Thursday night when Georgia Tech faced Louisville. He was the target of boos and heckling from Cardinal fans.

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