Judge denies Kobe Jones, Leo Lewis’ motions to sever, transfer venue in Rebel Rags lawsuit
Motions filed by Mississippi State players Kobe Jones and Leo Lewis to sever and for transfer of venue in the Rebels Rags lawsuit have been denied.
It’s the latest development in a lawsuit filed by the Oxford-based retail clothing company during the summer, alleging defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy. The lawsuit stems from what Rebel Rags believes were false statements made by Jones, Lewis and Miller — the estranged stepfather of former Ole Miss offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil — during interviews with NCAA investigators when questioned about an allegation that the three received $2,800 worth of free apparel from the store between Jan. 25-27, 2013 and between March 28, 2014 and Jan. 31, 2016.
As part of their separate motions, Jones and Lewis argued there wasn’t a link between the three defendants with their interviews being conducted at separate times in separate locations. Attorneys for Jones and Lewis also argued the case should be heard in Oktibbeha County since their statements were made in Starkville and not Lafayette County.
In an order filed in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Thursday, judge John Kelly Luther ruled the defendants are properly joined since they’re alleged to be involved in the same conspiracy. Rebel Rags is alleging the defendants’ statements were made at the request of at least one John Doe defendant to deliberately cause harm to the store.
Lewis and Jones denied the conspiracy claims in court filings in July.
“The Court finds the alleged overarching conspiracy amongst the defendants to make similar, defamatory statements to the NCAA for the unlawful purpose of causing the Plaintiff to suffer damages, constitutes the alleged same transaction, occurrence or series of transactions and occurrences,” the order read. “Further, the Court finds the Plaintiff has alleged in its complaint, and in Plaintiff’s consolidated responses in opposition to Defendant Jones and Defendant Lewis’ motions, facts and legal claims that are common to all defendants and are not so varied to be confusing to a jury. Thus, the same litigable event — the allegation of conspiracy by the defendants to defame the Plaintiff — can be tried together in one action.”
With the defendants properly joined, Luther also ruled that venue was proper since the suit may be brought in any county in which any one of the claims originated.
“This court finds venue is proper in Lafayette County as to Defendants Jones and Lewis under Rule 82(c),” the order read.
The decision comes nearly a month after Luther initially heard motions in the case, including one for dismissal filed by Miller. That motion was denied. Discovery in the case had been stayed pending a resolution.
The allegation against Rebel Rags is one of 15 Level I charges brought against Ole Miss in its NCAA investigation. The school’s case was heard by the Committee on Infractions over a two-day span in September with a final ruling expected to be handed down sometime in November.
Read the full order below.
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