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Rebel Rags alleges conspiracy among Mississippi State, defendants in latest lawsuit response

Rebel Rags filed its latest response in its defamation lawsuit related to the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss’ football program over the weekend, which included allegations of conspiracy among Mississippi State and the defendants.

Rebel Rags on Friday filed its response to Mississippi State player Kobe Jones, one of three defendants along with Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis and Lindsey Miller, the estranged stepfather of former Ole Miss lineman Laremy Tunsil, that the Oxford-based retail clothing store is suing for defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy. Rebel Rags challenged motions filed by Jones earlier this month to dismiss, sever from Lewis and Miller and transfer venues for the case.

In its response to Jones, Rebel Rags alleges that Jones, then still a student at Starkville High, met and conferred with members of MSU’s athletics department before giving a false statement to NCAA investigators in February 2016 about the store “which was designed and intended to bolster Defendant Miller’s prior, weak narrative about Rebel Rags’ wrongdoing,” part of the response read.

The response also referred to a statement given by Lewis to the NCAA that he told a teammate in the spring of 2016 he had been called into MSU coach Dan Mullen’s office and told that the NCAA would be questioning him before being coached “as to how he should respond to in order to protect Lewis’ own eligibility and to prevent MSU from being found in violation of NCAA rules,” according to the response.

“All of this evidence supports the allegations of a conspiracy involving the three named defendants and others,” part of the response read.

The response also makes reference to “leaks” provided to Yahoo Sports college sports writer Pat Forde and Steve Robertson, a writer covering Mississippi State for GenesPage.com, in an effort to prove a conspiracy.

Fifteen John Does are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit. Identities of some of those defendants won’t be revealed until Rebel Rags attorney Charles Merkel Jr. collects more evidence.

“The precise and specific details of the conspiracy and its details cannot be fleshed out until Plaintiff is afforded discovery,” Rebels Rags’ response read.

As for Jones’ request for a different venue, he contends the case should shift to Oktibbeha County because that’s where he lives and was interviewed by the NCAA. Rebel Rags disagreed in its response.

“Clearly while deliberately false utterances may have been made to the NCAA in Oktibbeha County, the utterances were designed and calculated to cause damage in Lafayette County, where Plaintiff’s business is located, and venue would be proper as to Jones in Lafayette County where the falsehood was calculated to result in damage,” part of Rebel Rags’ response read.

Jones denied all of Rebel Rags’ claims in his response, which was filed by his lawyer, Ridgeland-based attorney Christopher Shapley, in Lafayette County Circuit Court on July 11 — the same day Lewis filed his response. Tupelo-based lawyer John Wheeler filed a motion on Lewis’ behalf to also sever, change venues and dismiss.

Rebel Rags has yet to respond to Lewis’ motion. The store responded to Miller’s motion to dismiss on Thursday.

The actions are the continued fallout of the original lawsuit filed against Jones, Lewis and Miller by Rebel Rags on June 9 for what Rebel Rags owner Terry Warren believes were false statements made “intentionally, maliciously and/or with reckless disregard for the consequences of their actions” by the trio when interviewed by the NCAA, causing “economic and reputational damage to Plaintiff,” part of the original complaint read.

Jones and Lewis were scheduled to undergo depositions on July 19, but those have yet to happen.