Tech coach’s accuser jailed on old Georgia warrant

Ron Bell of Tucson, Arizona, was arrested Wednesday as a fugitive from justice on a warrant issued in Cobb County 17 years ago. PIMA COUNTY (ARIZ.) SHERIFF

Ron Bell of Tucson, Arizona, was arrested Wednesday as a fugitive from justice on a warrant issued in Cobb County 17 years ago. PIMA COUNTY (ARIZ.) SHERIFF

The Arizona man who accused Georgia Tech men's basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexually assaulting his girlfriend has been arrested as a fugitive from Georgia.

Ron Bell, 51, of Tucson was arrested on a warrant issued by a judge in Cobb County in 2001, shortly after he moved out of Georgia without permission while serving a probated sentence for theft. Bell, the subject of a recent story in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is being held without bond in Tucson until Georgia decides whether to extradite him, Arizona authorities said Friday.

A police fugitive unit in Oro Valley, Arizona, a Tucson suburb, executed the nearly 17-year-old warrant and arrested Bell at his home Wednesday, said Sgt. Carmen Trevizo, a spokeswoman for the Oro Valley police.

Trevizo declined to say why officers served the warrant this week. Bell has had extensive contact with the police; Oro Valley officers have been called to Bell’s home more than a dozen times in the past two years for domestic disturbances and arguments involving his neighbors. Bell has also visited Georgia since the warrant was issued, including a month-long trip in 2016 to follow Tech’s basketball team.

The only recent entry in Bell’s case files in Cobb County Superior Court was a letter from an Arizona private detective requesting information about his criminal record in Georgia.

Bell’s lawyer, Paul Gattone of Tucson, said Friday the old warrant seemed to become relevant only after Bell aired his accusations against Pastner, a former assistant coach at the University of Arizona.

“One has to wonder why this has become an issue now,” Gattone said. “It doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me.”

Pastner’s lawyers declined to comment.

Bell’s arrest is the latest twist in a bizarre story that includes allegations of NCAA rules violations, blackmail and sexual assault.

Bell, a reformed prescription-drug addict and former prison inmate, cultivated a friendship with Pastner in 2013, when the latter coached at the University of Memphis. Pastner gave Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, intimate access to his team and to his family. The relationship continued after Pastner became Tech’s coach in 2016.

But last year, Bell claimed Pastner had directed him to provide improper benefits to his players at Memphis and at Tech. The NCAA suspended two Tech players for several games this season over a trip they took to Bell’s home. No action was taken against Pastner, who said he was unaware of the trip.

Pastner sued Bell and Pendley in January, claiming they were trying to extort him over the purported NCAA violations. In February, Bell and Pendley filed a countersuit, accusing Pastner of sexually assaulting Pendley numerous times in 2016. Pastner denied the allegations. The dueling lawsuits are pending in an Arizona court.

After Bell and Pendley filed their countersuit, Tech hired a law firm to investigate the allegations against Pastner. A Tech spokeswoman said Friday the investigation is not finished.