Testimony Begins in Cottrell Trial

After a delay in impanelling the jury because of a "Badsen" challenge to the jury selection process by the plaintiffs, claiming that the defense attorneys were trying to eliminate blacks from the jury, opening statements were made and the first witness testified in the trial of Ronnie Williams and Ivy Williams against Tom Culpepper and the NCAA Wednesday.

Defense attorneys struck 17 black jurors out of their 20 total strikes.

The final make-up of the jury, 12 jurors and two alternates, included seven white females, five white males, one black female and one female apparently of Indian origin.

"We were disappointed and made our challenge based on the U.S. Supreme Court case of Badsen," plaintiff attorney Delaine Mountain said. "Unfortunately we weren't granted that challenge."

Tom Culpepper, a defendant in the case, was the only witness to take the stand Wednesday afternoon. Mountain's direct examination of Culpepper lasted just over two hours before the judge sent the jury home for the day.

"Culpepper was a very skilled witness," Mountain said. "He was well-versed and well prepared. We were attempting to lay some groundwork to get the testimony we need from other witnesses."

Mountain felt his side did a good job laying that groundwork, and said that his legal team would review his testimony to determine whether they would end their direct examination of Culpepper or continue it on Thursday.

Mountain believed the plaintiff's side scored points with the jury based on Culpepper's testimony that he passed along rumor and speculation (some personal and containing malice, the plaintiffs contend) to NCAA investigator Rich Johanningmeier and others.

He also said Culpepper admitting that he had no personal knowledge of violations by Ivy Williams was contradictory to public belief that Williams was not charged with NCAA violations because the NCAA could not use Culpepper's statements against him.

Culpepper claimed that Ronnie Cottrell, Rodney Orr and Logan Young were intimidating and threatening him after he "took a stand" about the alleged wrongfulness of the recruitment of Albert Means.

Mountain walked Culpepper through a timeline of events and Culpepper said that he met with Phillip Fulmer in Chattanooga with Fulmer attorney Jeff Hagood, then spoke to Johanningmeier within days after that meeting over the phone to set up an in-person meeting. Culpepper said that no allegations were made by him at the time of this call.

Culpepper said that when he met with Johanningmeier on August 13, a short time after the call, he spoke to Johanningmeier on the condition that his comments be used as background. Culpepper said on the stand that none of his comments to Johanningmeier then were meant to be taken as fact, and that the NCAA was to follow up on each of the rumors he had passed along.

Culpepper also testified that he shared some rumors with "media types" at CSSE and elsewhere.

Mountain said he plans to call Rodney Orr to the stand on Thursday to testify about his converstations with Culpepper, at which time he will play the taped telephone conversation between Orr and Culpepper.

The plaintiffs also could call Paul Finebaum, Terry Harrington and Bruce Graham to the stand on Thursday, all to testify about what Culpepper told them about the plaintiffs.

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