Five women say a book by Louisville escort Katina Powell falsely accuses them of participating in prostitution with recruits and students connected to the University of Louisville men's basketball program, according to court documents filed Monday.
The women joined a lawsuit filed Oct. 22 against Powell and IBJ Book Publishing LLC—which published Powell’s book last month—and have claimed defamation, violation of privacy and emotional distress.
The lawsuit, which was first filed by a University of Louisville student, Kyle Hornback, also now names Dick Cady as a co-defendant. Cady, a former Indianapolis Star reporter, was hired by IBJ Book Publishing to co-write the book with Powell.
Titled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” the book alleges Powell supplied strippers and prostitutes to the Louisville basketball program from 2010 to 2014 to help it lure highly-sought recruits. Powell has claimed that Andre McGee, who was a staff member during that time, paid cash for the recruits and sometimes their fathers to have sex with dancers Powell supplied.
The lawsuit says Powell repeated what it called false claims during media interviews.
McGee through an attorney has denied Powell’s claims. And Rick Pitino, the head coach of the Louisville men’s basketball team, has denied that he knew about the parties.
However, interviews by ESPN with some of the recruits involved confirmed much of Powell’s story, with one recruit acknowledging he had sex with a stripper at a dormitory on the Louisville campus where Powell’s strippers performed.
But the women in the lawsuit say they had no part in prostitution, according to an amended complaint filed in state court in Jefferson County, Kentucky, on behalf of Louisville residents Jemiah Nash, Marquease Richardson, Precious Burnley, Shinita Martin and Dolly Bolden.
“The allegations that Plaintiffs Nash, Richardson, Burnley, Martin and Bolden participated in, engaged in, promoted, advanced, or profited in any criminal act of prostitution are false,” the lawsuit states. It later adds, “Defendants Powell, IBJ, and Cady knew or should have known the statements were false when made. The statements were made with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity or with knowledge of their falsity and with wanton and willful disregard of the reputation and rights of the Plaintiffs.”
Louisville attorney Nader George Shunnarah, who is representing the plaintiffs, was not immediately available for comment. He also added three more University of Louisville students as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The Louisville students all claim that their career prospects have been damaged by Powell’s book because it damaged the reputation of the University of Louisville.
Michael Maurer, co-owner of IBJ Book Publishing, said via e-mail that he could not comment on the allegations until he had read the amended complaint. Maurer is also co-owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal, which is a sister company of IBJ Book Publishing.
Patricia Keiffner, publisher of IBJ Book Publishing, said via e-mail, "Our attorney is reviewing the allegations and will be making the appropriate response in court."
None of the five dancers are named by both their first and last names in Powell’s book. Powell mentions one dancer named Precious and one named Dolly and the book does not say directly that either had sex with anyone. Most other dancers are mentioned by their stage names.
Since Powell’s book was published on Oct. 2, the University of Louisville has started two investigations into her allegations, and the NCAA has launched its own investigation into possible recruiting violations. Kentucky’s Commonwealth attorney is also working with Louisville metro police and the University of Louisville to investigate possible criminal conduct.
IBJ Book Publishing was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Louisville that is investigating the situation.