ATLANTA — A Channel 2 Action News/Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation found Georgia Tech's head men's basketball coach did not disclose information or provided misleading statements to NCAA investigators amid a recruiting investigation.
This comes despite a warning from the NCAA that misleading statements or anything short of full disclosure could cost Josh Pastner his job.
Pastner’s statements come in a nearly four-hour recording that was never supposed to be made public. It was a part of a November 2017 NCAA investigation that eventually cleared Pastner of wrongdoing, but its recent release is tied to evidence in a defamation suit Pastner filed against Ron Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley.
Pastner did not disclose the existence of thousands of recruiting-related text messages tied to him, his wife, Bell and others, nor details of the couples’ close relationship, including holiday and home visits in Atlanta and Arizona where Bell and Pendley reside.
Instead, Pastner likened his relationship to Bell to a Make-A-Wish Foundation, cancer charity case and said he’d never given him access to the locker room.
Numerous photos and home videos show Bell inside the Georgia Tech locker room and interacting with players there and during practices, as well as at his Arizona home.
Text messages from discovery in the case include recruiting talk between Pastner's wife, Bell and others.
The AJC first obtained a copy of the recording.
All of this comes amid a new recruiting violations probe centered around Bell and a former Tech assistant basketball coach.
Neither the NCAA nor Georgia Tech would address the recordings, citing an ongoing investigation. But a spokesperson for Tech noted the school stands by an independent investigation clearing Pastner of sexual misconduct. They also referenced the new probe, saying, “In addition, Coach Pastner is not a named individual in the NCAA’s notice of allegations we received in the spring of 2019.”
An assistant town prosecutor in Oro Valley , Arizona charged Bell and Pendley with misdemeanor offenses tied to witness tampering and intimidation in the sex assault case.
They're largely based off a squabble between the two in 2018 jailhouse recordings where Bell suggested Pendley concocted the sex assault claims.
On May 9, Pendley’s attorney dropped her as a client. It’s unclear whether she has secured representation in the case since then.
The charges were filed in March of this year, the same day Pastner’s attorneys sent Bell’s attorney a letter demanding they dismiss their case.
According to court records, Pastner’s attorneys then attempted to delay the defamation trial, in one instance citing the couple’s pending criminal charges.
The motion was recently denied, and the case is scheduled for a late August trial, according to Arizona court records.
In a statement regarding the recordings, Pastner’s attorney, Scott Tompsett, focused on the couple, andtheir legal troubles and highlighted Pastner as a victim at the center of their charges.
“Whether Bell was ever in the locker room or around the team is irrelevant and trivial compared to the crimes that have been committed against Josh," Tompsett wrote.
He went on to call the news coverage of Pastner's case inaccurate, misleading, and doubted Channel 2's Nicole Carr's "interest in the truth."
“I find it disgusting and offensive that you, the AJC and WSB-TV continue to give air to Bell’s and Pendley’s malicious efforts to damage Josh and his family.”
In another statement, Bell’s attorneys, Justin Niedzialek and Jeremy Zarzycki, addressed the the recent charges in the civil case, calling the basis for the case “erroneous and flawed” as the basis for Pastner’s civil defense. They said they’re confident he’ll be exonerated.
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