By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – The attorney representing Ole Miss football players Denzel Nkemdiche and Robert Nkemdiche is confident the brothers will be vindicated.
Fox Sports on Tuesday reported that the Nkemdiches are the subjects of a civil suit stemming from a fight at an Ole Miss fraternity house roughly a year ago.
The complaint was filed last Friday, and the plaintiff, Matthew Baird, is seeking $2 million for claims of battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“We feel very confident we will be successful in defending this,” Ashland attorney Steve Farese said.
The alleged incident took place at the Kappa Alpha fraternity house in the early hours of Feb. 17, 2013.
The lawsuit includes five other unidentified football players.
The incident report from the university’s police force places other athletes at the scene, including basketball player Marshall Henderson.
The school issued a statement from athletics director Ross Bjork, who proclaimed support for the Nkemdiches.
“When this alleged incident occurred, the proper authorities investigated the matter and could find no evidence of wrong-doing related to Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche or any other members of our football program,” the statement said. “This is a personal matter for them and we will support Denzel and Robert while they defend themselves in this civil case.”
The Memphis firm of Burch, Porter and Johnson, which is defending Baird, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
Farese said he’s spoken to multiple witnesses from the party.
The confidence comes from weaknesses in the complaint, according to Farese, who suggested that Baird’s witnesses might be mistaken and wondered why only one person filed a complaint.
“When you read the complaint carefully, there was one person who was supposedly beaten who did not file suit, and the one that did file suit is claiming that Denzel hit him from behind. Now, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head,” Farese said.
He suggested that alcohol could have been factor in what he calls a “classic case of misidentification” and questioned the plaintiff’s motives.
“What often happens in situations like these, and I’ve dealt with a number of them, it was probably an alcohol-fueled party that breaks out, and after the fact someone comes up says, ‘So and so hit you.’ If you just look at the pleadings it’s pretty bare bones. It looks like a fishing expedition to me.”
Denzel Nkemdiche, 21, has twice been named All-SEC by the Associated Press.
Robert Nkemdiche, 19, was the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2013 and made freshman All-SEC and freshman All-America teams this season.
Farese left open the possibility that the players were targeted for their status and possible future earnings.
“Of course that certainly comes into play, but I can’t make that allegation,” he said.
The next step is for the Nkemdiches to file a response. After that, deadlines for discovery will be set, and the process will move forward.
“We will file and answer, and if they wish to take depositions we will take depositions. The truth will come out,” Farese said.