OXFORD (AP) - Ole Miss head basketball coach Andy Kennedy has filed a defamation of character lawsuit against the man who accused him of assault and a witness to the alleged incident, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The suit, filed Friday, seeks more than $25,000 from cab driver Mohamed Moctar Ould Jiddou and Michael Strother, a valet who told police he witnessed the incident.
The criminal complaint, filed Thursday in Municipal Court after Kennedy and Mississippi basketball operations coordinator Bill Armstrong were arrested, alleged that Kennedy assaulted Jiddou and "punched victim with a closed fist while shouting racial slurs."
Kennedy pleaded not guilty to the charges and vehemently denied the accusations. He was charged with misdemeanor assault; Armstrong was charged with disorderly conduct.
Kennedy's attorney, Richard Katz, said Friday that the statements made by Jiddou and Strother might do permanent damage to Kennedy's coaching career, according to the Enquirer. He also alleged their statements to police and the media have not been consistent.
"As an athlete or a coach, if you're in this business and something happens, whether you're innocent or guilty, it's with you for the rest of your career," Katz said, according to the report. "We don't want this to happen. We want this to be over and then throw the baggage in the river."
Rusty O'Brien, an attorney for Jiddou, was critical of the lawsuit, according to the Enquirer.
"Any basketball coach knows that the best defense is a good offense," O'Brien said, according to the report. "The guy's back is up against the wall because he got caught red-handed, so he's coming out with his guns blazing."
Jiddou, a 25-year-old native of the northwest Africa country of Mauritania, told reporters that the altercation broke out after Kennedy hailed him and then asked him to pick up his friends. When four other people tried to get in, Jiddou said, he told them he couldn't take that many because he only had four seat belts.
Jiddou said Kennedy then began yelling, cussing him and calling him "bin Laden, Saddam Hussein," and hit him in the face. Police said the left side of Jiddou's face was swollen; at his northern Kentucky home more than 12 hours later, he had no apparent injuries and said he wasn't hurt physically but was upset to be compared to the terrorist leader.
"[Osama] bin Laden killed 3,000 people in this country. I never hurt no one," Jiddou said. "How can he tell me that? I'm working hard. I don't want to hear anything like that."
Katz said the lawsuit was not filed as a way to intimidate Jiddou and Strother or coerce them into dropping the charges, according to the Enquirer.