Defendants Ask for Directed Verdict

Attorneys for Ronnie Cottrell and Ivy Williams finished their presentation against the NCAA and Tom Culpepper, resting their case after calling Jean Cottrell and Barbara Williams to testify as their final witnesses Tuesday afternoon.

Mrs. Cottrell gave emotional testimony during her brief 15 minutes on the witness stand about the circumstances surrounding a loan received from Logan Young and about the effect the matter at issue has had on her family.

"The Cottrell name was a stigma in the public that was tied to me," she testified. "Ultimately, we made the decision to leave here so we would not be confronted."

"It changed Ronnie. He could not sleep, even up to now… It was painful. He was not the same person," she said.

Jean Cottrell also said she was the person who filled out the loan applications and handled all of the families financial paperwork because she worked in the banking industry.

Barbara Williams testified for approximately 10 minutes and was the final witness called on Tuesday. She said that her family had "a fantastic life" when they came to Tuscaloosa.

"Once the rumors started, the investigations, the allegations, our lives began to change," she said.

After an objection by the NCAA, Judge Steve Wilson did not allow testimony from an economist who was scheduled to testify as an expert witness for the plaintiffs.

The jury was sent home early, at approximately 2:30 p.m. The judge then heard arguments by the defense to issue a directed verdict on their behalf.

The judge ruled that Williams could not recover damages from the NCAA based on the potential for lost future earnings. The only damages that Williams can now recover from the NCAA are nominal damages and mental anguish damages, and those damages must be based on the posting on the NCAA web site.

The NCAA requested and was granted the right to re-argue that Williams is a limited-use public figure in court Wednesday. The judge ruled Williams was a private figure in his motion for summary judgment ruling, but said he will hear arguments from the NCAA with additional evidence.

The NCAA plans to argue that because of all the publicity arising from the case, as was introduced by Culpepper attorney John Scott in his cross examinations, that Williams should be considered a public figure. They will introduce newspaper articles as evidence.

If the judge reverses his previous ruling and says that Williams is a public figure, the NCAA will no longer will be involved in the case.

If Williams remains a private figure, NCAA employee Cheryl DeWees will be called to testify about her role in the posting of a show cause on the NCAA's web site report about Alabama.

On Culpepper's motion for a directed verdict against Williams, the judge ruled that Williams does still have a defamation claim against Culpepper, pending his status as a private figure and not a public figure.

The judge reserved ruling on Culpepper's request to issue a directed verdict on his behalf against Cottrell.

Of the remaining claims Team Cottrell had entering the trial, the claims against Culpepper by Cottrell, even considering the court's decision that Cottrell is a public figure, have been the centerpiece of the plaintiffs' case.

Eight witnesses have alleged that Culpepper made statements to them that were potentially malicious or potentially defamatory.

Tommy Gallion argued strenuously outside the presence of the jury that this testimony was, at the very least, a matter to be decided by the jury.

Wilson requested that the plaintiffs present the judge with a timeline of what alleged defamatory statements were made so he can determine whether they occurred before the statute of limitations had expired. Statements made before Dec. 20, 2000 were ruled to be non-actionable, but have been introduced to prove malice on Culpepper's part.

Earlier Tuesday, Culpepper attorney John Scott continued his tedious cross-examination of Ronnie Cottrell. He meticulously walked Cottrell through documents relating to the loan, and through each of the four secondary violations committed by Cottrell that went unchallenged by the University of Alabama.

Scott entered numerous newspaper articles relating Cottrell's part in the NCAA investigation throughout his cross examination. Each time an article was entered, Cottrell attorneys would note their objection on hearsay, and the judge would instruct the jury that the articles were being admitted not to show the truth thereof, but as proof that there was publicity which might have affected Cottrell.

Mountain ultimately objected again, saying that continuous introduction of these articles throughout the course of the cross examination would prejudice the jury, and requesting that Scott enter the stack of articles at one time, instead of doing it one-by-one.

Judge Wilson was apparently not intrigued by Scott's questioning. Multiple times during Scott's cross examination of Cottrell when Mountain or Gallion objected to a question, the judge had to ask what question had been asked.

BamaMag Top Stories