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Rodriguez fires back, alleges extortion on part of accuser

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Alex McIntyre | The Daily Wildcat Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez stands in University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Dec. 19, 2015.

Former University of Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez has alleged extortion on the part of a former personal assistant and her attorney, who is suing Rodriguez to the tune of $7.5 million. 

Rodriguez issued his first legal response Monday, Feb. 26, in regards to a notice of claim filed against him in December last year.

Extortion

In his legal response, Rodriguez’s lawyers allege the claimant and her attorney, Phoenix-based counsel Augustine Jimenez III, contacted Rodriguez’s legal team twice by phone in the first week of November 2017.

During those calls, the letter said Jimenez made three accusations of Rodriguez in relation to his client:

1. Rodriguez called his accuser into his office while wearing only a towel.

2. While shirtless, Rodriguez would hug his accuser.

3. Rodriguez exposed himself to his accuser.

During the calls, the letter said, Jimenez also told Rodriguez's counsel he had spoken with UA's human resources department.

          RELATED: Rich Rodriquez fired after internal investigation

Jimenez "informed the undersigned [Rodriguez's] counsel that the university had already begun investigating coach Rodriguez on its own," the legal response said. But Jimenez insisted "his client did not initiate the investigation."

Then, in a Nov. 8 email to Rodriguez’s attorneys, Jimenez said it would take "multiple millions of dollars'" to clear the matter. 

In the same email, Jimenez mentioned being contacted by Daniel Dowd, an attorney for the outside law firm Cohen Dowd Quigley, which was contracted by the UA in October 2017 to investigate allegations of harassment and a hostile workplace against Rodriguez.

After noting that Dowd’s request for information from his client was “essentially the same” as Rodriguez’s legal team, Jimenez informed the attorneys that “there is nothing that we will agree to release,” to Rodriguez or anyone else unless Rodriguez agreed to enter a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

The alleged extortion attempt was active "for six weeks," according to Rodriguez's legal response, and culminated with Jimenez sending a letter to Rodriguez's attorney's on Dec. 10, 2017, requesting $7.5 million by Dec. 26, 2017, the day before the UA was scheduled to play in the Foster Farm's Bowl. 

Documents obtained by the Daily Wildcat confirm that the letter sent by Jimenez on Dec. 10, 2017, contained nearly identical wording to the official notice of claim filed by Jimenez on behalf of his client with the Arizona Attorney General's Office on Dec. 28, 2017. Five days later, Rodriguez would ultimately be fired.

Harassment allegations countered

On top of alleging extortion on the part of his accuser and her attorney, Rodriguez’s legal response directly contradicts some of the allegations made against the former coach in his accuser’s notice of claim. Of particular note:

In her December of 2017 claim to the Arizona Attorney General's Office, Rodriguez’s accuser alleged she was subjected to multiple instances of harassment. In one instance that purportedly took place in January 2017, Rodriguez “embraced her, touched the side of her breast and tried to kiss her.”

Rodriguez and his attorneys denied the allegations. Along with the legal response, Rodriguez's team released multiple exhibits meant to bolster the case.

One exhibit provided sworn statements from former male and female staff who worked with Rodriguez at Arizona and during his past coaching stints at Michigan, West Virginia and Glenville State.

In one statement, UA football analyst Dusty Rutledge refuted outright that Rodriguez was ever physically inappropriate with his accuser. “I never saw coach Rodriguez stand ‘skin-to-skin’” with his accuser, Rutledge said. “He was always very professional in his day-to-day interaction with her.” 

A few months later, the claimant alleged an incident where she was asked to retrieve underwear for Rodriguez from an equipment room. Rodriguez allegedly told her how "his preferred style of underwear ‘visually enhanced’ his genitalia when worn," according to the notice of claim.

That claim is fabricated, according to Rodriguez’s legal response. "Coach Rodriguez never spoke to [his accuser] about a preferred style of underwear or his genitalia," the response said.

Zach Hemmila

The notice of claim also recounts an incident where, allegedly, former player Zach Hemmila was brought to Rodriguez’s office by former General Manager and Director of Player Personnel Matt Dudek the day before Hemmila would ultimately die from complications involving prescription drugs.

According to the claimant’s account, Rodriguez simply told Hemmila: “He’ll be OK.”

“Rodriguez’s refusal to allow Zach to be evaluated knowing that he needed help was with keeping everything within football secret,” the claim alleged.

The response tells a different story. In a sworn statement included in the exhibits of Rodriguez’s response, former UA Football Operations Coordinator Krisanne Ryther claimed the entire athletic department was in mourning, with one person absent from the proceedings.

          RELATED: Rich Rod accuser hits UA with $8.5 million claim

“The funeral was highly attended by Arizona Athletics employees and student-athletes,” Ryther said. "[Rodriguez's accuser] did not attend the funeral.”

The Hide Away Book

Rodriguez was also accused of keeping a "Hide Away Book." According to his accuser's notice of claim, the book was meant to pass on secrets among the coaching staff, such as affairs and sayings, such as "Title IX doesn't exist in this office."

However, according to Rodriguez's legal response, the books where for disseminating coaching instructions and don't include the particular phrase in question.

Along with the 2015 "Hide Away Book" provided in Rodriguez's legal response, the Daily Wildcat also acquired a copy of the 2012 version. Neither copy contains the phrase "Title IX doesn't exist in this office."

The books do include tips in dealing with the press. "Remember, everything is on the record," it reminds. Relationships are also covered. "Be careful what you tell your wife," it warns.

This story is developing and will be updated as information becomes available. Follow the Daily Wildcat online and on social media for updates.


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