ATLANTA — An Arizona couple has filed a lawsuit against the head coach of Georgia Tech's men's basketball coach, alleging the coach sexually harassed the woman more than a dozen times in 2016.
Ronald Bell and Jennifer Pendley are now seeking damages related to physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering caused by the alleged harassment. Pastner, in turn, has flat-out denied those claims.
Court documents filed on Feb. 8, 2018 claim the assaults happened while Pastner was, first, head coach at the University of Memphis, then at Georgia Tech. 11Alive normally does not name sexual assault victims, but is doing so because Pendley and Bell have chosen to make the case public.
The lawsuit, filed in an Arizona Superior Court, alleges the harassment first began when Pendley and Bell traveled to Houston for a Feb. 10, 2016 men's basketball game between the University of Memphis, then under the direction of Pastner, and the University of Houston.
According to the lawsuit, the couple were staying in the same hotel as Pastner and the University of Memphis team. On the night of Feb. 9, the lawsuit said Pastner went to Pendley and Bell's room to discuss a mutual friend who was writing an article profiling Bell and Pastner's years-long friendship.
Bell, thinking the meeting was over, allegedly went into the bathroom to shower, leaving Pastner alone in the room with Pendley, who was sitting at the edge of the bed.
The documents says Pastner got up and walked to stand right in front of her where he allegedly "looked down at Pendley and began stroking her hair." The lawsuit then claims Pastner unzipped his pants and began touching himself inappropriately while still holding Pendley's shoulder.
Pendley then began to cry and asked for Pastner to stop, but the lawsuit alleges he did not and instead threatened her not to say anything because he was the head coach of the basketball team and knew "very powerful people who would make Pendley's life 'a living hell' if she ever mentioned" it.
The lawsuit said Pendley did not tell Bell about the incident, but alleges Pastner continued to harass the woman almost a dozen more times between Feb. 14 and March 3. She never told Bell about those incidents, either.
The lawsuit claims the sexual harassment began again in November 2016, after Pastner became head coach for Georgia Tech's men's basketball team, when Pendley and Bell traveled to Atlanta to watch a game. It continued through the remainder of the season, the lawsuit alleges.
In a statement countering the claims, Pastner's lawyer not only called them "malicious" lies, but also said they're part of a "months-long attempt to defame and extort him."
"There was no sexual assault," Scott Tompsett wrote on behalf of Pastner. "Josh never acted improperly with Ms. Pendley. Never." (Read the full statement here.)
The statement goes on to claim that Pendley actually "continued to proactively and enthusiastically initiate communication and contact with Josh and his wife," even visiting Pastner and his wife's home.
Tompsett alleges that the new lawsuit is part of a failed smear campaign to blackmail Pastner by claiming he knowingly participated in NCAA violations. The statement goes on to highlight Bell's alleged criminal past and "long history of dishonest and antisocial behavior." It also pointed to a Oro Valley Police report in which officers investigated alleged abuse by Bell against Pendley, and claims that Bell's own family took protective measures against him.
"In this era of women courageously coming forward to report valid claims of sexual assault and harassment, we are saddened and outraged that Mr. Bell and Ms. Pendley have concocted a malicious lie to blackmail and to harm a family that showed only compassion toward the," the statement concludes.