Reports: Houston Nutt’s attorney says Ole Miss is stalling, charging $25,100 for Hugh Freeze’s phone records
Published 6:01 am Saturday, July 29, 2017
Houston Nutt’s representation claims Ole Miss is stalling in producing former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze’s phone records from the last five years as part of an open records request related to Nutt’s lawsuit against the school.
In a letter sent to Ole Miss’ general counsel Friday, Nutt’s attorney, Arkansas-based lawyer Thomas Mars, accused the school of engaging in “stonewalling tactics” when it comes to fulfilling requests made through Mississippi’s open records law, according to a report by USA Today Sports. Mars also said he was told he and Nutt would have to pay approximately $25,100 for Ole Miss’ general and outside counsels to prepare the phone records, something Mars said is unnecessary.
“From the very outset, the University has found all kinds of creative and illegitimate reasons to delay producing documents, redact documents without legal justification,” Mars wrote in the letter, according to the report.
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Mars filed a civil lawsuit against Ole Miss, its athletic foundation and the Institute of Higher Learning on behalf of Nutt on July 12, accusing the school of false and defamatory statements made by school officials in response to the NCAA’s investigation into the football program. Specifically, the suit alleges that Freeze, athletic director Ross Bjork and Kyle Campbell, associate athletic director for communications, conspired to spread misleading information regarding the involvement of Nutt’s tenure in the Notice of Allegations by pushing a false narrative in off-the-record phone conversations with sports journalists.
In an effort to prove that, Mars recently filed an open records request for Freeze’s phone records for one week in January 2016. That led to the discovery of what Bjork called a “concerning pattern” of personal misconduct by Freeze with his university-issued cell phone, which ultimately led to his resignation on July 20.
Mars has since requested Freeze’s phone logs that cover nearly his entire five-year tenure. Mars said the expanded request was made strictly for the purpose of his client’s case rather than an attempt to air any possible embarrassing laundry for Freeze or Ole Miss.
“We know exactly what we’re looking for, it’s very relevant to Coach Nutt’s lawsuit, and we know it’s in the phone logs,” Mars wrote, according to the report.
Mars also said turning them over shouldn’t first take hundreds of hours of prep on the behalf of Ole Miss’ legal representation because there’s no law in Mississippi that would allow the school to redact call information.
“Setting up a frivolous roadblock the way you’ve done it here just makes you guys look like you’re scared to death of what we’re going to find in those phone records,” Mars wrote, according to an ESPN report. “Frankly, you’ve now got us wondering what you’re trying to hide.”
Ole Miss on Thursday responded to Nutt’s lawsuit with a motion to dismiss.