A woman's claim that Georgia Tech head basketball coach Josh Pastner sexually assaulted her in a hotel room three years ago has resulted in the woman and her boyfriend — a former friend of Pastner — getting slapped with a series of criminal charges by Arizona prosecutors, who say the couple conspired in a "fraud scheme" to level a false accusation against the coach in order to obtain settlement money.
"According to Oro Valley Magistrate Court records, Ron Bell, Pastner's former friend, was charged Friday with providing false information to law enforcement and facilitation of a fraud scheme practice," ESPN's Mark Schlabach reported Tuesday. "Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, are accused of being 'engaged in a plan or scheme ... to allege a false, fraudulent accusation of sexual assault against Josh Pastner with the goal of obtaining an anticipated civil monetary settlement/judgment.'"
The legal battle between Pastner and the couple traces back to January 2018, when the coach filed a civil complaint accusing Bell and Pendley of unsuccessfully attempting to blackmail him for months by threatening to spread false allegations against him. A month later, the couple filed a countersuit alleging that Pastner sexually assaulted Pendley in a hotel room in Houston in 2016 and sexually harassed her — accusations Pastner slammed as "disgusting" and utterly "bogus."
Attorneys hired by Georgia Tech to investigate the claims in 2018 cleared Pastner, but the evidence against Bell and Pendley has since resulted in multiple charges against the couple.
"In March, Bell was charged with seven misdemeanor counts related to the ongoing legal fight — one charge of solicitation of a fraud scheme practice, two charges of attempted tampering with a witness, two charges of solicitation of influencing a witness, and two counts of using an electronic device to intimidate or threaten Pendley," the Arizona Daily Star reports. "Officials say he also encouraged Pendley to file a false report accusing Pastner of sexual assault, according to a two-page complaint signed by assistant town prosecutor Troy Simon. That day, Pendley was charged with three misdemeanors related to her alleged involvement in the scheme."
On May 8, Pendley called the police to accuse Pastner of having sexually assaulted her in 2016 — the first time she reported the claim to authorities, Schlabach notes. Pendley made the accusation to police just two days after her attorney withdrew from representing her in the countersuit against Pastner — the second attorney to pull out over ethical concerns about Pendley and Bell's claims — and ahead of mediation for the civil suit.
Police issued a warrant for Pendley's arrest a week later, after she had failed to appear in court twice for the three charges.
The witness charges against the couple include conspiring to encourage a security guard at Georgia Tech to back up their sexual assault claim in exchange for a cut of future settlement money, prosecutors say. That security guard has since recanted, admitting to authorities that he never witnessed any assault and was actually out of the state on the day of the alleged incident.
Among the evidence Pastner's legal team has brought against the couple are "recorded jailhouse conversations that suggested the couple fabricated the allegations," Schlabach reports.