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Ole Miss coach settles Ohio defamation lawsuit

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CINCINNATI (AP) - University of Mississippi basketball coach Andy Kennedy on Tuesday settled a defamation lawsuit with a cab driver and a valet stemming from a dispute over a ride.

Details of the settlement were kept confidential as attorneys told Judge Melba Marsh in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court that they had reached an agreement.

The cab driver told police in 2008 that Kennedy punched him and used racial slurs after he refused to carry all five members of Kennedy's staff in his taxi because it had only four seats for passengers. He apologized to Kennedy on Tuesday.

"I would like to apologize to Mr. Kennedy and the court for any role I may have played in this unfortunate incident," driver Mohamed Jiddou said in court. "I am now ready to move forward with my life, and I hope that my apology will let Mr. Kennedy move forward with his."

The valet, Michael Strother, who witnessed the altercation, did not issue an apology but accepted Kennedy's apology from 2009.

"All matters between me and coach Kennedy have been resolved," Strother said after court.

Strother's attorney, Philip Taliaferro, said he was very satisfied with the settlement.

Kennedy accepted Jiddou's apology but had not sought one from Strother. Kennedy had apologized in court to Jiddou and Strother in April 2009. He had denied punching and taunting Jiddou in 2008 after his arrest on an assault charge in the altercation but pleaded guilty in April 2009 to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct and issued the apologies at that time.

Kennedy and his attorney, William Posey, would only say that Kennedy had sought an apology.

"He came for his (Jiddou's) apology, and he got his apology," Posey said.

Kennedy had filed the civil suit after he was arrested in Cincinnati in 2008 over the altercation with the cabbie. The counterclaims filed by Jiddou and Strother in response to Kennedy's lawsuit also were resolved with Tuesday's settlement.

Jury selection had begun in Kennedy's suit Monday and was to resume Tuesday, but the attorneys spent most of the day in discussions.

After the settlement was announced, the judge asked Kennedy, Jiddou and Strother to shake hands in court, which they did. She then asked the attorneys to do the same.

Kennedy has been coach at Ole Miss since March 2006, leading the team to postseason play three times. He previously was an assistant and then an interim coach at the University of Cincinnati for one season after Bob Huggins was ousted.

Kennedy went to Mississippi and had returned to town for a game against the University of Louisville on Dec. 18, 2008, as part of the SEC/Big East Invitational. He was at a downtown bar with friends and staff members the night before the game when they hailed Jiddou's cab.

After his arrest that night, Kennedy was released in time to coach the game, which Ole Miss lost 77-68.

A Hamilton County Municipal Court judge last week erased Kennedy's plea and conviction from public records, and Kennedy's attorney had asked Marsh to rule that jurors in the lawsuit trial not be allowed to hear about the plea and conviction. Marsh, however, had said that jurors could hear those details.

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