Appeals Exhausted in Defamation Suit Against Jelks
May. 01, 1996
Gene Jelks' attorney says a recent court ruling proves the former Alabama player was telling the truth about pay-for-play allegations against the Crimson Tide.
Jelks doesn't sound so sure.
The Georgia Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a former Crimson Tide assistant coach who accused Jelks of slander. Jerry Pullen's lawsuit previously had been thrown out by a state court and rejected by an appeals court. Pullen has no more appeals under Georgia law, said his attorney, Randy Edwards of Atlanta.
``That's it,'' Edwards said.
Jelks' pay-for-play allegations against Alabama, although largely thrown out, started the NCAA investigation that landed the Crimson Tide on probation for the first time when violations turned up involving another former player, Antonio Langham.
Jelks, at one point, produced audio tapes as proof that he was given cash and gifts to sign at Alabama. He implicated Pullen, who then sued for defamation of character. In throwing out the case, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Linda Hunter ruled that Pullen didn't deny the allegations on the tapes produced by Jelks.
``At times, you interpret (Pullen) was agreeing,'' Hunter ruled.
Jelks' attorney, Stan Kreimer of Atlanta, said the rejection of the appeal on Friday gave final vindication to his client.
``That's the one thing that always bothered me about this case,'' Kreimer said. ``Gene was telling the truth, yet he was made to look like a liar in this case.''
Jelks, however, has said in recent radio interviews that some of his accusations were false.
``I have been living a lie,'' said Jelks, who added in interviews on WJOX and WERC in Birmingham: ``I should have kept quiet.''
As the legal case unfolded, there were claims that Jelks was put up to the allegations by Auburn boosters, who were trying to get back at the Crimson Tide for Auburn's NCAA troubles. Some Auburn fans still blame Alabama boosters for the Tigers' pay-for-play scandal that resulted in Auburn's two-year NCAA probation.
In the radio interviews, Jelks has said he plans to go public soon and ``clear the air.''
Kreimer said he knew of no plans for a formal statement from Jelks.
While investigating Jelks' claims, the NCAA discovered that Langham, a star cornerback, had signed with an agent and was therefore ineligible when he played in 11 games during the 1993 season. Alabama's handling of Langham case compounded the problem and led to NCAA sanctions.
The NCAA findings against Alabama included one that Jelks obtained six improper, deferred-payment loans totaling $24,000 based on his future earnings. The loans were arranged by Alabama boosters.
The NCAA also said the school failed to obtain required documentation for Jelks' purchase of disability insurance. Those records would have revealed the existence of at least one of the loans.
Alabama had some scholarships restored when a third year of probation was dropped on appeal. The investigation and ensuing penalties resulted in changes in the athletic department, including the reassignment of former athletic director Hootie Ingram.