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Leo Lewis, Kobe Jones file appeals to Mississippi Supreme Court in Rebel Rags lawsuit

Tuesday brought the latest development in the Rebel Rags case.

Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis has filed to the Mississippi Supreme Court an appeal of Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge John Kelly Luther’s order denying Lewis’ motion to sever and transfer venue in the case. Rebel Rags is suing Lewis, fellow Mississippi State player Kobe Jones and Lindsey Miller for defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy.

John Wheeler, Lewis’ attorney, filed the motion on his client’s behalf. Jones filed the same motion Monday.

Lewis has also requested a stay in the circuit court proceedings pending the court’s decision.

Rebel Rags filed its lawsuit against the co-defendants in June for what the Oxford-based retail clothing store believes were intentionally false statements made by Lewis, Jones and Miller during interviews related to an allegation in Ole Miss’ NCAA investigation that they received $2,800 worth of free merchandise from the store between Jan. 25-27, 2013 and between March 28, 2014 and Jan. 31, 2016. Rebel Rags has also alleged the defendants’ statements were made at the request of at least one John Doe defendant to deliberately cause the store harm.

Lewis and Jones denied the alleged conspiracy in court filings in July.

Venue has been a point of contention in the case. Wheeler and Christopher Shapley, Jones’ attorney, have argued the case should be heard in Oktibbeha County since that’s where their clients’ interviews with NCAA investigators took place, but in his denial of their motion to sever and change venues, Luther ruled Lafayette County was the proper venue since the suit may be brought in any county in which any of the claims originated with the defendants properly joined.

Wheeler argued in the filing that Lewis should be severed from the other defendants because each defendant’s alleged statements were made separately, challenging the idea of a conspiracy and the proper venue for Lewis.

Lewis and Jones also signed sworn affidavits in September claiming they don’t know, haven’t met and haven’t communicated with Miller, whose motion to dismiss the case was denied in September and has since filed a counter-complaint.

“There is a substantial basis to differ with the circuit court’s opinion of law that the assertion of a conspiracy theory justifies joinder of Lewis in the action of Miller, and thus, supports venue in Lafayette County,” part of Lewis’ filing read. “Indeed, it appears that there is no plausible basis whatever in the law of civil conspiracy for linking Lewis to Miller’s alleged tortious conduct since it is conceded that when Miller made his alleged false statements about Rebel Rags in 2015, Lewis was not at that time a member of the alleged conspiracy involving Miller and the ‘John Does’ who allegedly put Miller up to making the false statements, and there is no allegation that Miller and Lewis ever agreed together for either to make any particular statement.”

The allegation against Rebel Rags is one of 15 Level I charges, deemed the most serious by the NCAA, and 21 overall alleged infractions Ole Miss is facing. The school had its hearing with the Committee on Infractions in September with a final ruling expected to be handed down sometime this month.