News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Cottrell attorneys ask for delay in trial

By Kyle Veazey
DAILY Sports Writer 340-2460

Lawyers for former Alabama assistant coaches Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams filed an 11th-hour motion Friday with the state Supreme Court for a stay as they work to appeal the dismissal of most of the case.

Tommy Gallion, the Montgomery attorney serving as lead counsel for Cottrell and Williams, filed the 17-page motion to delay the trial, which is set to begin Monday morning in a Tuscaloosa courtroom. As of late Friday, the court had not ruled on the motion.

The Friday filing puts the start of the case, scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, in jeopardy.

The motion asks the court to consider three main points on which they feel Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Steve Wilson ruled incorrectly Thursday in his dismissal of much of the case:

  • Denying Gallion's request to have recruiting analyst Tom Culpepper produce details of an arrangement between him and the NCAA that reportedly had the organization paying Culpepper's legal bills. "This indemnity agreement is critical evidence of Culpepper's credibility and bias as a witness at trial, as well as his having lied under oath," the motion states.
  • Denying the request to require NCAA investigator Richard Johanningmeier to turn over e-mails, phone records and other documents related to his investiagtion of the Alabama football program.
  • Ruling before the attorneys for Cottrell and Williams could depose NCAA employee Shep Cooper and submit a deposition of NCAA employee Cheryl DeWees, which took place July 1.

    The motion says the actions of DeWees meet the threshold for negligence needed to rule in favor of Cottrell on that claim. In a deposition, DeWees admitted to numerous mistakes while maintaining the NCAA Web site that led to Cottrell and Williams being erroneously implicated.

    "That's some of the best lawyering I've ever seen," said Phillip Shanks, the Decatur native who represented Cottrell in federal court proceedings in Memphis.

    "That very succinctly states what the position of the plaintiffs was all along — that there was a massive foulup at the NCAA headquarters and the issue of Ronnie being a public person or not should never even arise with respect to the issue regarding negligence to the posting on the NCAA Web site."

    On Thursday afternoon, Wilson dismissed claims of conspiracy and negligence in the suit and also dismissed Cottrell's defamation claims against the NCAA. Wilson also dismissed claims against Johanningmeier and Thomas Yeager, the chairman of the NCAA infractions committee in 2001, when Alabama's football was placed under sanctions.

    He also deemed Cottrell a "limited public figure," meaning he has to show actual malice to prove defamation. Libel and slander claims against Culpepper remain.

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