An Oro Valley man has been found guilty of six misdemeanor charges in connection with false allegations he made against former Arizona Wildcats basketball player and assistant coach Josh Pastner in 2018.
The conviction last week by an Oro Valley judge is the latest in a year-long legal battle between ex-friends Ron Bell, 54, and Pastner, who’s now the head coach of Georgia Tech men’s basketball team. Bell was found guilty of two counts each of solicitation of influencing a witness and attempted tampering with a witness. He was also convicted of false information and facilitation of fraud, schemes and practice. His sentencing is scheduled for July 19.
“The evidence showed that Ronald Bell engaged in a pattern of reactive and retaliatory behavior against Josh Pastner over several months for perceived slights to their friendship/relationship,” Oro Valley judge Bobbi Berry said in a July 6 order. “The prosecution proved that Ronald was motivated to bring about Josh Pastner’s downfall.”
In January 2018, Pastner filed a lawsuit against Bell and his fiancée, Jennifer Pendley, in Pima County Superior Court, saying the couple defamed him following months of failed attempts at blackmail and extortion. The 47-page lawsuit accused Bell and Pendley of intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting and injurious falsehood.
Bell and Pendley countersued Pastner, claiming in their lawsuit that the coach forced Pendley to perform a sex act in a Houston hotel room in February 2016 and groped her on several other occasions. She did not contact local police at the time, but called Oro Valley police in May 2019 to report the alleged assault.
Pastner was never charged with any crime, and an independent investigation paid for by Georgia Tech in 2018 cleared the coach of the sexual misconduct allegations.
The couple’s claims were further cast into doubt when a key witness in their lawsuit against Pastner recanted. Georgia Tech security guard Chris Meegan initially told lawyers and investigators that he saw Pastner grope Pendley, but admitted during a deposition that the couple offered him a portion of their expected settlement to lie to attorneys.
In March 2019, Bell was charged with seven misdemeanor counts related to the 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.
Pendley was also charged with three misdemeanors in connection with her alleged involvement in the scheme. The disposition of her charges is unclear.
Pastner settled his lawsuit against the couple in August 2019, with all parties bearing responsibility for their own costs and attorney fees.
Berry said in her ruling that “the evidence is overwhelming that the (sexual assault) allegations were fabricated,” with “multiple inconsistent versions of the alleged event” being presented by Bell and others.
Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at 573-4191 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt