Louisville students' lawsuit against escort is dismissed

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015, file photo, Louisville head coach Rick Pitino responds to a question following an NCAA college basketball team's intrasquad scrimmage in Louisville, Ky.Louisville has announced additional self-imposed sanctions on its men's basketball program in the wake of an escort's allegations, reducing scholarships for the 2017-19 seasons and restricting official recruiting visits and recruiting opportunities for staff. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File)
AP

A Louisville judge has dismissed a lawsuit by University of Louisville students filed against Katina Powell that said the escort's book allegations of sex parties at the men's basketball players' dormitory had devalued their education.

Kyle Hornback and three other students sued Powell last fall, saying her book damaged the school's reputation. Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Mitch Perry denied their argument in Friday's decision but allowed others who joined the suit after being named in the book to file amended complaints that they were falsely accused and defamed.

Powell has said that former Cardinals basketball staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers to entertain recruits and players. Several investigations are ongoing including one by Louisville, which self-imposed a postseason ban and reduced scholarships and recruiting opportunities.

The NCAA is also investigating but has yet to interview Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who has denied knowledge of the activities Powell described in ''Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.''

While Perry denied the students' argument for recovery in the suit, he allowed six women and a man named in the book to proceed with defamation complaints against Powell, author Dick Cady and Indianapolis-based publisher IBJ Publishing. The judge wrote that the court has jurisdiction because ''throughout the writing and investigation necessary for this book, some business was transacted in Kentucky.''

Nader George Shunnarah, one of two Louisville attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said Tuesday that he respected Perry's split decision. While Shunnarah has no immediate plans to appeal the ruling against the students, he has filed the amended complaint and added by phone that ''we're still in the ball game.''

Powell's attorney, Larry Wilder of Jeffersonville, Indiana, said via text that he was pleased Perry dismissed the students' suit, which he argued lacked merit. Wilder added that his team is prepared to proceed to continue fighting the dancers' complaints as well.

''We believe that after we depose the dancers and other witnesses, we will be able to establish that Katina did nothing that damaged their character or reputation. Truth is an absolute defense to the claims of defamation,'' Wilder said.

Powell wrote that McGee paid her $10,000 for 22 shows from 2010-14 at Billy Minardi Hall on Louisville's campus. The school on Feb. 5 announced that it would not play in the postseason after its investigation determined that violations did occur.

Louisville's additional sanctions on April 6 eliminated one scholarship each for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The school also reduced recruiting visits by one for the next two seasons and coaches have 30 fewer days to recruit prospects.