Independent Title IX investigation clears Georgia Tech's Josh Pastner of sexual assault allegations

A Title IX investigation has cleared Georgia Tech men's basketball coach Josh Pastner of allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed the girlfriend of a former friend.

The Title IX investigation, conducted by lawyers from the Fisher Phillips law firm in New Orleans who were retained by the school, concluded that the allegations made by Ron Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, were "concocted by Bell, made in bad faith, and asserted only after various other attempts to damage and/or extort Pastner failed."

"Bell turned his access in Josh Pastner's world into a potential money-making opportunity," the report said. "Unfortunately for Bell, all of his requests to 'settle this amicably' were rebuffed which, in turn, only led him to escalate his allegations. Bell and Pendley's allegations that Pastner sexually assaulted Pendley are baseless."

Pastner's attorney, Scott Tompsett, declined to comment outside of saying, "The report speaks for itself."

Bell, Pendley and their attorney, Paul Gattone, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

In January, Pastner's lawyers filed a civil suit against Bell and Pendley in Superior Court in Pima County, Arizona, alleging they "began a malicious campaign to defame Pastner, and to extort and blackmail Pastner, by threatening to release and releasing to the public, the media, Georgia Tech and the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), false and patently untrue information Bell and Pendley believed and intended would be extremely damaging to Pastner's reputation and would result in Pastner losing his job at Georgia Tech and being penalized by the NCAA."

The lawsuit said Bell first made threats about turning over information about NCAA violations in the Tech basketball program to the media and NCAA during a phone conversation with Pastner on Oct. 2.

Bell and Pendley filed a countersuit against Pastner in February, stating Pastner sexually assaulted Pendley several times in 2016. Pastner and his attorneys vehemently denied the allegations.

On Feb. 14, Georgia Tech president G.P. "Bud" Peterson retained Fisher Phillips to conduct a Title IX investigation into the allegations. The Title IX report released on Monday said Bell and Pendley were invited to participate in the investigation, but their attorney declined to make them available for interviews.

The most damaging allegation against Pastner was that he sexually assaulted Pendley in a Houston hotel room on Feb. 9, 2016.

"In his interview as part of this investigation, Pastner strenuously and credibly denied this allegation," the report said. "Pastner acknowledges Bell and Pendley were in Houston for the game. He did not recall ever being in Bell and Pendley's hotel room but was unequivocal that he was never alone with Pendley. There are several straightforward facts which individually would cast doubt on Pendley's allegations, but when considered collectively, make plain that this incident did not occur."

Bell and Pendley also accused Pastner of sexually assaulting her before Georgia Tech played Sam Houston State on Nov. 22, 2016. They said a security officer witnessed the incident, but employment records indicated the officer wasn't working that night. In fact, the security officer told investigators he was visiting family in Baltimore for Thanksgiving.

Bell previously told ESPN that he met Pastner while Pastner was working as an assistant coach at Arizona. According to the lawsuit, Bell told Pastner that he was ill with cancer in June 2014 and asked for his emotional support.

In a Nov. 7 report by CBS Sports, Bell alleged that he had provided Georgia Tech basketball players Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson with improper benefits by paying for them to fly to his home in Tucson, Arizona, and paying for their meals at a restaurant in Atlanta. Bell also alleged he sent the players shoes and shirts that he purchased online.

After becoming aware of Bell's allegations on Oct. 2, Pastner said he reported the violations to Georgia Tech's compliance department. Tech officials self-reported the violations to the NCAA, and the school declared Okogie and Jackson ineligible for competition at the start of the season. The NCAA suspended Okogie for six games and Jackson for three. They also required the players to repay the amounts of the benefits they received.

Bell served four years in prison in Arizona from 2009 to 2013 following his conviction on felony drug charges. He was arrested in March on a fugitive warrant from Georgia for a probation violation stemming from an armed robbery charge in 2001.