ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner says he and his family are victims of fraud and extortion, and he is seeking protection through a lawsuit filed in Arizona.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Saturday that Pastner filed a civil lawsuit against former Georgia Tech booster Ron Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, who have accused the coach of breaking NCAA rules.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Pima County, Arizona, Bell and Pendley “began a malicious campaign to defame Pastner, and to extort and blackmail Pastner” by threatening to release accusations the lawsuit contends are “false and patently untrue.”
Among the allegations: Bell accused Pastner of sexually assaulting Pendley.
Some of the accusations against Pastner are related to suspensions announced in November of two Georgia Tech players, Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson. Okogie and Jackson were suspended for six and three games, respectively, for accepting benefits - including flights provided by Bell in violation of NCAA rules.
Overall, Georgia Tech determined Jackson and Okogie received apparel, meals and transportation valued at less than $525 and less than $750, respectively.
In a statement provided to the Atlanta paper by Pastner’s attorneys, he said “I am disgusted and devastated by the actions of two individuals to whom I showed compassion. 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.”
Following Georgia Tech’s 69-54 victory at Pittsburgh on Saturday, Pastner said “I think my statement pretty much says it all, so I’ll probably stick to that, keep it to what I said yesterday and what my lawyer said.”
Pastner said Saturday he does not think the allegations or the lawsuit will be a distraction for his team.
“No, not one bit. I’m really transparent with our guys and we have a job to do,” he said. “Our guys have gotten better and better and better. We’ve got to keep focused, that includes myself and our young men.”
CBS Sports first reported Bell provided the benefits, including flights to Arizona for the two players. Bell said Pastner was aware of the trip.
The school said on Nov. 14, when the suspensions were announced, its investigation showed the violations were isolated and took place without the knowledge of Pastner and his staff.
The school said Pastner became aware of the violations months later, when he reported the situation to the school’s compliance office, which then began its investigation and informed the NCAA of its findings.
The athletic association said in a statement it has been kept “fully appraised” of the lawsuit by Pastner and his legal team “and we support coach Pastner in his efforts to address this personal matter.”
Associated Press correspondent Alan Saunders in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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