Pastner, couple agree to drop lawsuits in '16 case

Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner has reached an agreement to dismiss a defamation case against a former friend, whose girlfriend accused Pastner of sexually assaulting her in a hotel room in February 2016.

In January 2018, Pastner filed a civil suit against Ron Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, in Superior Court in Pima County, Arizona. Pastner alleged they were trying to extort and blackmail him by threatening to release false allegations about him to the media, Georgia Tech and the NCAA.

Bell and Pendley filed a countersuit in February 2018, alleging Pastner had sexually assaulted Pendley in the hotel room in Houston and harassed her other times.

Bell and Pendley have also agreed to drop their countersuit against Pastner, according to court records.

Pastner's attorney, Scott Tompsett, told ESPN that the parties agreed to drop their lawsuits Friday and that an agreement is expected to be finalized later this week.

Tompsett and co-counsel Scott Palumbo said in a statement to ESPN that "no money was exchanged, all parties agreed to execute full releases, and all parties are responsible for their own costs and attorney's fees."

A civil trial was scheduled to begin in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 20.

"Mr. Pastner brought the suit to clear and exonerate his name and reputation from the false and malicious lies Bell and Pendley were making against him in an effort to extort money from Mr. Pastner," Tompsett said in a statement. "This has been accomplished.

"While Mr. Palumbo and I are supremely confident in obtaining a large jury verdict against Bell and Pendley, trying this case would be expensive for Mr. Pastner, and because we understand Bell and Pendley have virtually no assets to satisfy a judgment, the cost to try the case far outweighs any benefit to Mr. Pastner."

A Title IX investigation, conducted by attorneys hired by Georgia Tech, cleared Pastner in the matter in June 2018.

"Georgia Tech's independent investigator Scott Schneider conducted a full investigation and concluded that none of Pendley's allegations of sexual misconduct are credible, and that it is highly likely that the allegations were concocted by Bell, made in bad faith, and asserted only after various other attempts to damage and/or extort Mr. Pastner failed," Tompsett said in the statement.

Bell and Pendley claimed to have a shirt that contained Pastner's DNA, but Tompsett said "forensic evidence tested negative for the presence of semen and saliva, and Pastner's DNA was not on the shirt."

Prosecutors in Arizona filed misdemeanor criminal charges against Bell and Pendley in May, accusing them of providing false information to law enforcement and facilitation of a fraud scheme practice.

Bell and Pendley are accused of being "engaged in a plan or scheme ... to allege a false, fraudulent accusation of sexual assault against Josh Pastner with the goal of obtaining an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment," according to Oro Valley Magistrate Court records.

According to court records, Pendley called police May 8 and reported that Pastner sexually assaulted her in a Houston hotel room while he was coaching at Memphis more than three years ago. It was the first time she had reported the alleged assault to police.

Pendley's call to police came ahead of mediation in the civil lawsuit related to the accusation. A court filing by Tompsett last year included recorded jailhouse conversations that suggested the couple fabricated the allegations.

Pastner previously denied the couple's allegations, saying there was "zero truth to any of those disgusting, bogus allegations. It's disgusting."

Pendley is charged with multiple misdemeanor charges, including facilitation of a fraud scheme practice, facilitation of influencing a witness and facilitation of tampering with a witness.

Bell has also been previously charged with various misdemeanor counts, including solicitation of a fraud scheme practice, solicitation of influencing a witness, attempted tampering with a witness, use of an electronic communication to terrify, intimidate, threaten or harass and impersonating a public servant.

The court records say Bell and Pendley are also accused of "encouraging Chris Meegan to bear false witness against Josh Pastner to a false, fraudulent accusation of sexual assault in exchange for an offer of a portion of an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment."

Meegan, a security guard who worked at Georgia Tech basketball games, previously admitted he lied about witnessing Pastner inappropriately touch Pendley before a game against Sam Houston State in Atlanta on Nov. 22, 2016.

Meegan later admitted he wasn't working that day and was out of the state.

"Pendley's only so-called witness testified under oath, and while represented by his own attorney, that he never witnessed any assault, that Bell and Pendley asked him to lie about witnessing Mr. Pastner assault Pendley, and that they offered to share the anticipated settlement proceeds with him," Tompsett said.

In a November 2017 report by CBS Sports, Bell alleged he provided Georgia Tech basketball players Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson with improper benefits by paying for them to fly to his home in Tucson 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 in October 2017, 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 2017-18 season. The NCAA suspended Okogie for six games and Jackson for three. It also required the players to repay the amounts of the benefits they received.

In March, the NCAA sent Georgia Tech a notice of allegations, in which it accused a "representative of the institution's athletic interests" -- identified by sources to be Bell -- of providing more than $2,000 in impermissible benefits to players in 2016 and 2017. Pastner was not named in the notice of allegations.

According to court records, Georgia Tech officials are scheduled to appear in front of the NCAA committee on infractions in Indianapolis on Aug. 22.

In addition to the alleged rules violations involving Bell, former Yellow Jackets assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie is charged by the NCAA with Level I violations relating to an Atlanta strip club visit that sources told ESPN included Wendell Carter Jr., now heading into his second season with the Chicago Bulls, and former Georgia Tech and NBA player Jarrett Jack.

Jack, whom the NCAA declared to be a representative of Georgia Tech's athletics interests, is alleged to have provided Carter and an unidentified then-Georgia Tech player with $300 for the strip club visit, sources told ESPN.

Bell served four years in prison in Arizona from 2009 to 2013 following his conviction on felony drug charges. He was arrested in March 2018 on a fugitive warrant from Georgia for a probation violation stemming from an earlier conviction.