Mississippi Supreme Court denies Mississippi State football players’ petitions for appeal in Rebel Rags lawsuit

Published 3:46 pm Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday denied the petitions of Mississippi State football players Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones for interlocutory appeals in the Rebel Rags lawsuit. The players were seeking severance and a transfer of venue.

That means the case will proceed in Lafayette County, where Rebel Rags is located. The Oxford-based retail store initially filed a lawsuit against Lewis, Jones and Lindsey Miller, the stepfather of former Ole Miss standout Laremy Tunsil, back in June, suing the defendants for defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy for what Rebel Rags owner Terry Warren believed were intentionally false statements made to NCAA investigators when all three were interviewed about impermissible benefits they allegedly received during recruiting visits to Ole Miss.

The petitions for appeals were filed in November on Lewis’ and Jones’ behalf by their respective attorneys, John Wheeler and Chris Shapley, after Lafayette County Circuit Court Judge John Kelly Luther denied requests made by Lewis and Jones to sever and transfer venue. Wheeler and Shapley believed the case should be heard in Oktibbeha County, where Mississippi State University is located and where Lewis and Jones were interviewed.

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In a joint statement issued to The Clarion-Ledger, Wheeler and Shapley said they will move to transfer venue again on different grounds later on.

“We are disappointed by the ruling and respectfully disagree with a majority of the Court,” they said. “We will move forward to vigorously defend all claims that our clients lied to the NCAA in its investigation into Ole Miss.”

In one of 15 Level-I charges levied against Ole Miss in its investigation into the football program, the NCAA alleged that Jones, Lewis and Miller were provided with $2,800 worth of free merchandise from Rebel Rags, which the school refuted in its response to an amended Notice of Allegations in February 2017. The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions found the three to be credible in its final ruling handed down Dec. 1, and Rebel Rags was dissociated as a booster.

Rebel Rags has since been reinstated pending the outcome of the school’s appeal, which was filed last month. The COI has until April 8 to respond to the appeal.

In a second lawsuit filed last month, Rebel Rags added Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, former MSU athletic director Scott Stricklin, NCAA investigator Mike Sheridan and the organization itself to the list of defendants, accusing them of an overarching conspiracy. The two cases are expected to be consolidated.

Mullen and Stricklin are in the same roles at Florida.