Lawyers who represent couple suing Pastner want to withdraw

Lawyers representing an Arizona couple who accused Georgia Tech men's basketball coach Josh Pastner of sexual assault and harassment have asked a judge to allow them to withdraw from representing the couple in Pastner's civil case against them and their countersuit against him.

The attorneys, Paul Gattone and Ashley Gilpin of Tucson, Arizona, told a judge in a court filing Friday that Ron Bell and Jennifer Pendley had "greatly exaggerated, if not fabricated" the value of evidentiary material to support their claims against Pastner, according to court records. The lawyers wrote in the filing that they "cannot ethically remain part of this litigation."

Pima County Superior Court Judge Brenden Griffin hasn't yet ruled on the matter.

Earlier this week, Georgia Tech officials released a report from a Title IX investigation, conducted by lawyers from the Fisher Phillips law firm in New Orleans who were retained by the school, which concluded that the allegations against Pastner 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 Title IX 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."

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. Pastner said he reported the violations to Georgia Tech's compliance department thereafter, and Tech officials self-reported the violations to the NCAA.

Bell and Pendley filed a countersuit against Pastner in February saying Pastner harassed or sexually assaulted Pendley more than a dozen times in 2016. Pastner and his attorneys vehemently denied the allegations.

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.