Georgia Tech opens investigation into sexual assault allegations against Josh Pastner

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Pastner on sexual assault allegations: 'Zero truth to that' (0:41)

Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner vehemently denies sexual allegations brought against him. (0:41)

Georgia Tech opened an investigation Friday into allegations that men's basketball coach Josh Pastner sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel room while he was coaching at Memphis two years ago.

Georgia Tech officials said they would hire an independent investigator to examine the allegations against Pastner, which include claims that he also harassed the woman more than a dozen times in 2016.

"We expect every member of our community to practice the highest ethical principles and standards of conduct," Georgia Tech said in a statement.

Until Friday's announcement, the school said the controversy surrounding Pastner was a personal matter.

Jennifer Pendley filed suit in the Superior Court of Pima County, Arizona, on Thursday, saying the coach sexually assaulted her in a Houston hotel room in February 2016.

Pendley had been sued by Pastner for defamation last month. In her countersuit, Pendley said the alleged assault happened when she and her boyfriend, Ron Bell, traveled to Houston to watch Memphis play Houston.

Pastner was in his final season as Memphis' coach at the time of the alleged assault.

Bell and Pastner became friends when Pastner was an assistant coach at Arizona from 2002 to 2008; Bell also was named as a defendant in Pastner's lawsuit filed last month.

After Georgia Tech's loss to Louisville Thursday night, Pastner said he was "an absolute victim in this whole deal."

"Unequivocally, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero truth to any of those disgusting, bogus allegations. It's disgusting," he said, before saying "zero" 11 more times.

Pastner's attorney, Scott Tompsett of Kansas City, also denied the allegations in a statement sent to ESPN on Thursday.

"There was no sexual assault," Tompsett said. "It is a lie. Josh never acted improperly with Ms. Pendley. Never."

Tompsett said Bell and Pendley began alleging the assault "only after their two-month-long scheme to blackmail Josh by claiming he knowingly participated in NCAA violations failed."

"In fact, contrary to the claim she filed today, for two years after Ms. Pendley alleges the first assault occurred, Ms. Pendley continued to proactively and enthusiastically initiate communication and contact with Josh and his wife, visiting their home, giving gifts to their children, attending games, and publicly expressing positive statements about Josh and his character," Tompsett said in the statement.

Pastner's defamation lawsuit against Bell and Pendley claims 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."

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.

The countersuit filed Thursday claims Pendley and Bell were in a room with Pastner at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston, where they discussed a newspaper article that was being written about Bell's longtime relationship with Pastner. The complaint alleges Bell went into the restroom to take a shower when Pastner sexually assaulted her. The lawsuit alleges that Pastner told her not to say anything or he would make her life "a living hell." The countersuit said she didn't tell Bell about the incident until more than a year later.

The lawsuit also alleges that there were 11 other occasions in which Pastner sexually harassed Pendley "by grabbing her against her will when she was alone and whispering obscenities and innuendos in her ear."

During one incident, before Georgia Tech's game against Sam Houston State in Atlanta on Nov. 22, 2016, Pastner allegedly "grabbed Pendley's butt, believing no one was watching." The lawsuit said a security guard witnessed the incident. When they reached the top of a staircase, Pastner allegedly "ran his hand down the front of her body, brushing over her breast, and then her vaginal area." Pendley became upset and ran to a restroom, and the security guard asked if she was OK when she came out.

The lawsuit said Pendley had been "suffering nightmares, depression, and anxiety due to the trauma she suffered as a result of Pastner's sexual assault and battery." She said she discussed the alleged abuse with her primary care provider, who referred her to a psychiatrist. On Oct. 2, as Bell's relationship with Pastner began to deteriorate, she told Bell of the alleged sexual assault and battery.

Tompsett also released to media a copy of an Oro Valley Police Department incident report, which detailed a welfare check that occurred on April 4 at Bell's home in Tucson. According to the report, Pendley's father, Larry, called police and said his daughter's friends had been calling him and "saying things like she is in fear for her life and he is physically and verbally abusive."

When officers arrived at Bell's home, according to the report, Pendley told them that things were "touch and go" and "okay right now," but she didn't want to talk about the situation. She told police that Bell monitored her cellphone, listened to her voicemails and prohibited her from speaking to her family members. An officer called Pendley's father and advised him that "Jennifer needs to come forward to law enforcement so we can help her."

On May 5, an attorney representing Pendley's father called Oro Valley Police and said "the entire family is concerned that Jennifer is being mentally and physically abused by [Bell]. They also believe that Ron Bell is trying to take advantage of Jennifer's trust money that she gets every month to live on." Officers closed the case later that month "due to lack of evidence that anything criminal was occurring."

Tompsett's statement claims Bell has a "history of abusive, manipulative and controlling behavior toward women."

"We are confident evidence will show Mr. Bell has been similarly abusive, manipulative and controlling of Ms. Pendley, and the truth about the abusive and dysfunctional relationship between Mr. Bell and Ms. Pendley, and the nefarious reasons for their malicious lies about Josh, will be fully revealed in court and before a jury," Tompsett said in the statement.

"In this era of women courageously coming forward to report valid claims of sexual assault and harassment, we are saddened and outraged that Mr. Bell and Ms. Pendley have concocted a malicious lie to blackmail and harm a family that showed only compassion toward them."