Atlanta

Man convicted of making false sexual assault claims against GA Tech basketball coach

ATLANTA — An Arizona judge has convicted a man of orchestrating a plan to make false claims of sexual assault against Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner.

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

In 2018, Jennifer Pendley, Bell’s girlfriend, accused Pastner of sexually assaulting her in a Houston hotel room in 2016. Pastner was coaching the Memphis Tigers at the time.

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Pendley did not make a police report at the time.

In 2018, Pastner was involved in a public dispute with Bell over who was responsible for providing various gifts to two Georgia Tech players who were suspended for violating NCAA rules.

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Bell admitted to providing the players with improper benefits and paying to fly them to his home, paying for meals at a restaurant in Atlanta and buying them shoes and clothes.

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.

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Pastner self-reported the NCAA violations but denied he was previously aware of them. The NCAA suspended Georgia Tech men’s basketball from the 2019-2020 postseason and put the team on probation for four years.

Pastner was not directly named in the NCAA’s findings and was largely cleared in Georgia Tech’s own investigation.

“We admonish Josh for his poor judgment” in allowing his former friend, Ron Bell, “to get close to the program in the first place,” athletic director Todd Stansbury said.

Pastner subsequently sued Bell and Pendley for defamation.

Less than a month later, they countersued, alleging that Pastner sexually assaulted Pendley two years prior.

Jailhouse transcripts between Bell and Pendley filed in 2018 suggested the sexual assault claims were made up. Bell was in jail in Arizona at the time on an unrelated theft conviction from the late 1990s.

On Monday, a judge ruled that there was overwhelming evidence that the sexual assault claims were false.

“The court began its deliberations with an analysis of whether the claim that Jennifer Pendley was sexually assaulted was possible or whether it was fabricated,” court documents said. “Evidence is overwhelming that the allegations were fabricated.”

The verdict goes on to read: “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.”

Bell is scheduled for a sentencing hearing on July 19.