Tech coach Pastner accused of sexual assault in court filing

Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner, left, poses with Ronald Bell, who once was his self-professed biggest fan.

Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner, left, poses with Ronald Bell, who once was his self-professed biggest fan.

At least 14 times in 10 months, Georgia Tech men's basketball coach Josh Pastner sexually assaulted or harassed the girlfriend of his self-described biggest supporter, the woman alleges in court papers Thursday.

Jennifer Pendley, 45, of Tucson, Arizona, said Pastner tried to force her to engage in a sex act and repeatedly groped her against her will. She claimed the sexual misconduct occurred throughout 2016, both at Memphis, where Pastner coached for seven years, and at Tech, where he took over the basketball program before last season.

The allegations came in response to a lawsuit Pastner filed last month against Pendley and her 51-year-old boyfriend, Ron Bell, also of Tucson. Pastner accused the couple of trying to blackmail him with false claims of sexual assault and NCAA rules violations.

In the lawsuit, Pastner denied all allegations of misconduct. On Thursday, he again strongly rejected the accusations.

“Unequivocally, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero truth to any of those disgusting, bogus allegations,” Pastner said after his team’s game against Louisville.

One of Pastner’s lawyers, Scott Tompsett of Kansas City, also said: “There was no sexual assault. It is a lie. Josh never acted improperly with Ms. Pendley. Never.”

Pastner:  “I’m an absolute victim in this whole deal”

The new allegations were the latest development in a saga that began last fall, when Tech suspended guards Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson for accepting impermissible benefits. After an NCAA investigation, Okogie sat out six games; Jackson, three.

In November, Bell told CBS Sports that he had paid for the players to fly to Arizona in May 2017 and provided other gifts, including shoes and clothing. Bell, a former prescription drug addict who served more than three years in prison between 2009 and 2013, also alleged that Pastner knew about those and other violations. Bell and Pastner had developed a close relationship since Bell got out of prison. Bell and Pendley spent several weeks with Pastner's teams in Memphis and Atlanta in 2016.

Bell first alleged sexual misconduct by Pastner in a telephone call in December with an NCAA investigator.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution normally does not identify purported victims of sexual assault. However, Pastner identified Pendley in his lawsuit and she did not file her response anonymously. She also appeared on television in Tucson to discuss the case.

In documents filed in court in Tucson, Pendley said she and Bell accompanied the Memphis team on a road trip to Houston in February 2016. That evening in the team hotel, she said, Pastner came to the couple’s room to discuss a feature article a Memphis reporter was writing about the coach’s friendship with Bell. Thinking the conversation was finished, the court papers said, Bell went into the bathroom for a shower.

Pendley said that as she sat on the bed, Pastner stood in front of her and began stroking her hair. Then, she said, he exposed himself and masturbated while trying to force her to perform oral sex. She said she resisted, but Bell could not hear her crying from the bathroom. She said Pastner left after ejaculating on her T-shirt.

Pastner threatened to make Pendley’s life a “living hell” if she told anyone about the episode, she alleges in the court document.

Pendley did not tell Bell about the assault, fearing he would not believe her, she said.

Over the next month, court records allege, Pastner sexually harassed Pendley, grabbing her against her will and whispering obscenities to her. She claimed he repeatedly grabbed and pinched her buttocks and that he held her against a wall and touched her breasts.

Before a game at Tech in November 2016, Pendley alleged, Pastner cornered her in a stairway and ran his hands over her breasts and genitals. A security officer working at McCamish Pavilion witnessed the encounter and later asked Pendley if she was all right, she alleges in the court filing.

The final assault allegedly occurred in December 2016 as Bell and Pendley ate dinner with Tech’s basketball team before a game at Tennessee. While Bell was getting food, the court papers said, Pastner “ran his hand up and down Pendley’s leg” beneath the table and then reached between her legs.

Pendley spoke to her physician in August 2017 about nightmares, depression and anxiety tied to Pastner’s misconduct, the documents said. She did not tell Bell about the incidents until October 2017, the filing said.

Pastner’s lawyer said Pendley’s claims are appropriating the recent publicity over sexual misconduct by powerful men.

“In this era of women courageously coming forward to report valid claims of sexual assault and harassment,” Tompsett’s statement said, “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 them.”