Witnesses Say Culpepper Lied

A half dozen witnesses were called by plaintiffs' attorneys to testify in Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams' $60 million defamation lawsuit against Tom Culpepper and the NCAA in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court on Thursday.

The witnesses, who were questioned on direct examination by Tommy Gallion, painted an unflattering picture of Culpepper, collectively describing him as unstable, as well as hateful and vindictive with respect to Cottrell and disassociated Alabama booster Logan Young.

"I'm pleased because we brought in witnesses who refuted was Tom Culpepper said (in his earlier testimony)," Gallion said. "We got them on (the witness stand) and they say Tom Culpepper didn't tell the truth."

Plaintiffs' attorney Delaine Mountain wrapped up his examination of Culpepper Thursday morning before the other witnesses took the stand, asking Culpepper about his school loyalties.

Asked if he was an Alabama fan, Culpepper said, "Yes sir. Will be until the day I die." Culpepper said he was not a Tennessee fan.

Responding to questions about photographs from the Mobile Register depicting Culpepper and Tennessee head football coach Phil Fulmer embracing after Tennessee's victory over Alabama in October 2001 (viewable at the Tuscaloosa News web site here, Culpepper said that Fulmer was "a customer of mine. If he sticks his hand out I'm going to shake it just like you would shake your customer's hand."

Mountain tried to insist that Culpepper's prior testimony Wednesday, that he warned Cottrell to cease recruitment of Albert Means, had never been asserted before. But on examination by his own attorney, John Scott, Culpepper was able to counter that assertion.

Culpepper read from a document where he previously claimed he made vague statements to Cottrell about how Alabama should stop recruiting Means in a meeting with Rich Johanningmeier, Stan Murphy, Rich Hilliard, Gene Marsh, Marie Robbins and his wife all present.

Rodney Orr, the owner of Tider Insider, testified about a taped telephone conversation between he and Culpepper that he made without Culpepper's knowledge, and the tape was introduced as evidence and played in its entirety for the jury.

Culpepper's attorneys questioned Orr about the incompleteness of the tape, which begins and ends abruptly during the conversation. Orr said the end of the conversation was also taped, but he did not know the whereabouts of what he said was approximately 10 minutes of the call.

NCAA attorneys, in their only action of the day, asked Orr if he had ever been to the portion of the NCAA web site where one would go to view whether a coach had a show-cause order placed against him. Orr said he had not.

Terry Harrington testified about his role in spreading information Culpepper had given him. Harrington, Terry K on the web site TiderInsider.com, testified that Culpepper told him things about Cottrell he now believes to be false.

Harrington was first called to the stand around 11:30 a.m., but his testimony was interrupted when Scott objected to Gallion's attempt to refer to web postings Harrington had produced from his private web site.

Harrington testified that Culpepper told him Cottrell had abandoned his family, that he had taken money from a golf tournament in violation of NCAA rules, that he stole recruiting tapes from Alabama and that he paid money to recruits.

Harrington said he repeated these things and made derogatory statements about Culpepper on an invitation-only private web site he owned and administered.

This site, Harrington said, includes or included members of the media such as Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News, ESPN anchor Rece Davis, New York Times writer and author of a book about Alabama football Warren St. John and the son of a University of Alabama trustee among its members.

Culpepper was also a member, he said.

Harrington said he removed Culpepper from the private web site on Jan. 17, 2004 when the Tuscaloosa News revealed he was a witness to the NCAA. Harrington testified that, on the same day as the Tuscaloosa News story appeared, Culpepper deleted several posts he had previously made on the private board.

Harrington said he volunteered his information because when he found out what Culpepper had told him was not true he felt liable for statements he had repeated and approached Cottrell's attorneys out of guilt.

Harrington often spoke out of turn, and on more than one occasion rendered his opinion about a defense hearsay objection before the judge was able to rule, causing the judge to caution him.

Scott returned a verbal jab later in the afternoon when Harrington responded to one of his questions with "Sir, I'm not a lawyer," to which Scott replied, "Well, you were able to rule on my objections earlier."

Later, Harrington had to change his testimony under cross examination by Scott because he told Gallion that he did not have any direct contact with Cottrell that resulted in derogatory statements he made about the coach.

Scott then had Harrington read from a post from his private site where he derided Cottrell, referring several times to personal contacts with Cottrell in the post which he had previously denied.

Harrington was taken off the stand in the morning hours and other witnesses testified. Harrington's testimony resumed around 4 p.m. after he gathered the complete body of information to provide context to the items to which he was referring.

Bruce Graham testified that while working with Culpepper at Comcast Sports Southeast (CSSE) Culpepper was frequently absent, often brought his daughter to work and failed to provide timely content for the television station's web site.

Graham said Culpepper had threatened him while at CSSE, but further questions were objected to and sustained by Judge Steve Wilson.

Under cross examination, Graham said he stayed in contact with Logan Young and that he was considering writing a book on the affair.

Charlie Branch testified that he worked in the same building with Tom Culpepper in 2001. He said Culpepper would come into his office and talk to him from time to time.

He testified that Culpepper had told him he wanted Ronnie Cottrell out of Alabama and out of college football and said things along the lines of "I'll do whatever it takes to get Ronnie Cottrell out of Alabama"

Branch testified that one day Culpepper entered his office and appeared upset and that Culpepper told Branch the NCAA case against Alabama was falling apart and that if they couldn't get someone to go on the record against Alabama "those SOBs" were going to get off.

Branch testified Culpepper told him he instructed Rich Johanningmeier to use Kenny Smith to tie Young into the case.

Branch also said Culpepper boasted when Cottrell was fired along with the Mike DuBose staff, saying that nothing would happen to him because

Reggie Willis (Bama K on TiderInsider.com) testified that the phrase he remembered Culpepper using the most about Cottrell is that he was "a liar and a cheater" and he needed to be removed from the program. Willis testified that Culpepper said these things with a "hateful" demeanor.

He also testified that Culpepper claimed to have backing from John Croyle, the father of current Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle. Willis testified that Culpepper told him John Croyle and other boosters met with Alabama AD Mal Moore about getting rid of Cottrell. According to Willis, Culpepper said he had been invited by Croyle to his daughter's wedding.

Mark Ezell, a member of the Alabama Alumni Association, gave brief testimony that Ronnie Cottrell never took money from the golf tournament he conducted, and that the golf tournament was not named after Cottrell, but that his name did appear on shirts that were printed for the tournament.

Gallion said Friday's witnesses will include Paul Finebaum and Bruce Parris. He also said that Cottrell and Williams will also testify, likely tomorrow. Cottrell's doctor, an economic expert, Cottrell's wife and Williams' wife are expected to testify briefly as well to close the plaintiffs' case as well.

The NCAA, who has been a spectator through a great deal of the trial so far, will proceed after the plaintiffs rest their case, then Culpepper's attorneys will get to present his defense.

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