Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in Cincinnati Monday, as sources last week told the Daily Journal he would.
Kennedy was charged with simple assault against a Cincinnati cab driver on Dec. 18, the day on which he would later coach Ole Miss against the University of Louisville in the SEC-Big East Invitational.
Kennedy – an assistant coach and interim head coach at the University of Cincinnati before accepting the Ole Miss job in the spring of 2006 – was also accused that day of shouting racial slurs at cab driver Mohamed Jiddou.
On Monday, Kennedy’s defense attorney Mike Allen said the guilty plea should not be confused with a confession to any abuse against Jiddou, physical or verbal. Kennedy “vehemently denies” the accusations, Allen said.
Director of basketball operations Bill Armstrong, also arrested on Dec. 18, also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. He paid $100 fine and $94 in court costs on Monday.
Kennedy pleaded guilty to a charge that states that he “hailed a cab and subsequently engaged in a verbal altercation, which escalated into a confrontation with the cab driver, Mr. Jiddou. He persisted in that behavior despite reasonable requests to desist.”
Kennedy, not available for comment, issued a statement:
“I acknowledge using poor judgment which resulted in an adverse reflection on me, my family, our program and the university that I so proudly represent. Our program is built on the foundation of accountability, and I, as its leader, take full responsibility for my actions and the consequences that follow.
“This ‘season’ of adversity has presented me with many opportunities through which I could talk to our players about real life lessons. I, too, have learned a valuable lesson that will aid in my continued growth as a coach, a leader and, most importantly, a man.”
Kennedy thanked the administration and “loyal Rebels everywhere” and apologized to the same groups for the negative attention brought to the school “as a result of my involvement in this unfortunate situation.”
Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone met with media briefly in the early afternoon. He praised Kennedy’s results on the court this season but said his contract will not be extended at this time.
Kennedy is in the first year of a four-year deal that pays $800,000 a year plus incentives.
“I believe in the deepest part of my heart that Andy is going to be an exemplary coach and an exemplary person. Adversity has a way sometimes of opening good doors and sheds light on things,” Boone said. “He and I have had an opportunity, as you can imagine, to become fairly close over the last couple of months. It’s amazing when you’re having communications and conversations like this how you can get away from the nit-picking things and get down to that sense of what is really important in life.”
Civil cases unaffected
The voluntary conviction does not bring to an end the legal drama for the coach. There are still dueling civil lawsuits that were unaffected by Monday’s developments.
Following the arrest, Kennedy sued Jiddou and Michael Strother, a nightclub valet who backed up Jiddou’s claims, for defamation of character.
Jiddou and Strother countersued, claiming harassment and that the lawsuit was frivolous.
An attorney for Strother, Phil Taliferro, told the Cincinnati Enquirer he hoped Kennedy would end the civil litigation, but Kennedy attorney William Posey did not indicate that would happen soon. He denied there was any effort being made by Kennedy’s camp to settle.
“This is about defamation, about people making statements to newspapers and television that have put Andy in a false light,” Posey said. “This has always been about Andy and his name.”
In his effort to clear Kennedy’s name Posey stressed that pleading guilty to disorderly conduct did not mean Kennedy was admitting to Jiddou’s claims.
“The plea he entered was only to a verbal disagreement. It was nothing about assault or ethnic intimidation. He would never plead to that,” Posey said.
All movement in the civil litigation was put on hold until the criminal charge concluded. It could be months, perhaps a year, before the civil action is finished if the cases go to trial.
Allen, who never confirmed the existence of a plea deal, said the court appearance “went as we expected” and that Kennedy was in and out of Municipal Court in about 15 minutes.
Disorderly conduct carries a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Kennedy was sentenced to 30 days with 29 suspended and one day’s credit for time spent on jail on Dec. 18.
He must also pay a $100 fine plus court costs, charges that he himself is responsible for, Boone said.
Kennedy will serve a probation period that will last six months or will end upon the completion of 40 hours of community service.
Allen said it is probable that Kennedy will be allowed to complete the community service in Oxford.
Parrish Alford/Daily Journal