Sports

Man convicted over false accusations vs. Pastner

An Arizona judge has convicted a man of orchestrating a plan to falsely accuse Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room in February 2016.

Ron Bell, a former friend of Pastner’s, was convicted Monday on six misdemeanor counts — two counts of solicitation of influencing a witness, two counts of attempted tampering with a witness, false information, and facilitation of fraud, scheme and practice.

Bell is scheduled to be sentenced by Oro Valley Magistrate Court Judge Bobbi Berry on July 19.

Bell’s girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, called police on May 8, 2019, and reported that Pastner sexually assaulted her in a Houston hotel room while he was coaching at Memphis in 2016.

Pendley’s call to police came ahead of mediation in a civil lawsuit related to the accusation. A 2018 court filing by Pastner’s attorneys, Scott Tompsett and Scott Palumbo, included recorded jailhouse conversations that suggested the couple fabricated the allegations.

Chris Meegan, a security guard who worked at Georgia Tech basketball games, previously admitted that 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 and made the allegations “in exchange for an offer of a portion of an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment.”

“Through manipulation, threats, or promises of benefits to Jennifer Pendley and Chris Meegan, the prosecution proved that Ronald Bell encouraged or commanded them to engage in conduct that promoted the false sexual assault allegations,” Berry wrote in her verdict. “Ronald Bell also attempted to induce both Pendley and Meegan to testify falsely in official proceedings to further the false allegations.”

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

Berry also wrote in the verdict: “The evidence showed that Ronald Bell engaged in a pattern of reactive and retaliatory behavior against Josh Pastner over several months for perceived slights to their friendship/relationship. The prosecution proved that Ronald was motivated to bring about Josh Pastner’s downfall.”

In January 2018, Pastner filed a civil suit against Bell and Pendley in Superior Court in Pima County, Arizona, alleging 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 and harassed her other times. A Title IX investigation, conducted by attorneys hired by Georgia Tech, cleared Pastner in the matter in June 2018.

The sides agreed to drop their lawsuits in August 2019.

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, 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 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. They also required the players to repay the amounts of the benefits they received.

In September 2019, the NCAA placed the Yellow Jackets on four years of probation and banned them from playing in postseason tournaments during the 2019-20 season. The committee on infractions ruled that Bell provided players with $2,424 in shoes, clothes, meals, transportation and lodging.

An NCAA infractions appeals committee vacated multiple sanctions against Tech in February.

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