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SportsPulse: With college football season in the books, we turn our focus to basketball. USA TODAY Sports

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Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner filed a civil lawsuit Friday in Arizona against Ron Bell and Jennifer Pendley, alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting and injurious falsehoods and attempts to blackmail and extort both Pastner and his family, according to a statement from his attorney. 

Bell, in a CBSSports.com story published last November, admitted that he had provided extra benefits to two Georgia Tech players in violation of NCAA rules and alleged that Pastner knew about it and even tacitly encouraged him to help keep his players happy so they wouldn’t transfer. Pastner denied those claims. 

According to the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by USA TODAY Sports, Bell then made an allegation during a Dec. 6, 2017 phone call with NCAA investigators that Pastner had sexually assaulted Pendley, who is Bell’s girlfriend. 

That allegation is “fabricated and false,” according to statement from Pastner’s attorneys. 

“I am disgusted and devastated by the actions of two individuals to whom I showed compassion,” Pastner said in a statement. “My family and I are victims of fraud and extortion and the extent to which these individuals have gone to harm us is truly unfathomable. I absolutely and unequivocally never assaulted or harassed Ms. Pendley and I am truly sickened by these false claims. Upon learning of the allegations, I immediately informed law enforcement and officials at Georgia Tech.” 

Pastner and Bell met more than a decade ago when Pastner was an assistant at Arizona. Their relationship was rekindled in 2013 via email, and Bell credited Pastner for saving his life through emotional support during a battle with cancer. 

Pastner allowed Bell access to his program at both Memphis and Georgia Tech. In the lawsuit, Pastner provides written correspondence in which he implored Bell to follow NCAA rules and advised that he should not give players anything without asking him first so it could be cleared through the compliance office.

According to the lawsuit, as recently as Sept. 28, 2017, Bell sent an email to Pastner referencing the FBI’s investigation into college basketball, which said, in part, “Your honesty and willingness to always follow the rules is one of the things I admire about you most.” 

Days later, Pastner and Bell had a falling out. According to the lawsuit, Bell was upset over a “petty dispute” between he and Pastner’s administrative assistant concerning T-shirts he had made for the Georgia Tech staff commemorating Pastner’s 40th birthday.

The lawsuit alleges that on Oct. 2, Bell “began sending text messages and calling Pastner” complaining that he had sided with his administrative assistant over him and began threatening Pastner with information about NCAA violations that he would expose. 

At that point, Pastner claims he turned the information over to his compliance staff, which led to Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson being suspended for the start of the season. 

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“Both young men told Pastner that Bell told them not to tell Pastner about the impermissible benefits,” the lawsuit claims. 

Another key allegation in the lawsuit is that Bell contacted Pastner’s agent, Joey McCutchen, last Nov. 9 and allegedly claimed during a 1½-hour phone call that he would not provide Georgia Tech’s attorneys with any damning information if Pastner “would agree to settle things amicably by paying Bell for the time Bell claimed he had worked for Pastner and the Georgia Tech men’s basketball program.” 

Georgia Tech’s attorneys met with Bell on Nov. 10 at his home in Arizona. On Nov. 30, Pastner met with the NCAA enforcement staff in Atlanta and provided his cell phone records and text messages.

According to the lawsuit, NCAA investigators spoke with Bell by phone on Dec. 6 and that he “refused to discuss with the NCAA any details of his allegations that Pastner was involved in or knew of” and instead pivoted to a sexual assault allegation. The NCAA shared the substance of information from the call with Georgia Tech’s outside counsel. 

“On information and belief, Bell became irate and angry with the NCAA enforcement staff representatives, demanded an apology, and made threatening statements that caused the NCAA enforcement staff representatives to end the call, cease contact with Bell, and decide that it would be unsafe to send an NCAA enforcement staff representative to Arizona to interview Bell in person.”

Pastner’s attorneys cited several disturbing incidents in Bell’s background including an order of protection in 2006 filed against him by his ex-wife detailing physical and mental abuse and 15 incidents at his residence between July 2015 and April 2017 in which police were called to respond. 

The complaint also details a bizarre incident in November when Bell threatened one former and one current Memphis basketball staff member who had told Pastner that Bell planned to go on the radio show hosted by Gary Parrish, who also detailed Bell’s account of the NCAA violations in the CBS Sports story. Bell allegedly told those staff members that he was “best friend of a nephew of Mexican drug lord” known as El Chapo and that he had given the OK “for someone to go to Memphis and do a ‘hospital job’ on the current Memphis staff member.”

Georgia Tech sent Bell a Letter of Disassociation/No Trespass Order” on Dec. 11. 

The lawsuit details numerous other incidents alleging manipulative behavior. 

"For more than three months, Josh has been in constant communication with law enforcement on this matter and will continue to do so," according to a statement from Pastner's attorneys. "We have shared with them the voluminous evidence of the varied extortion attempts and harassment, including phone calls, emails, text messages and witness testimony. Josh has also been fully cooperating with an NCAA review of the allegations, including being completely transparent in his interview with the enforcement staff as well as producing documentation to support his testimony."

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