New Mexico State basketball players settle sexual assault lawsuit

Two former New Mexico State basketball players settled a hazing lawsuit filed in April, according to ESPN and the Associated Press. The lawsuit claimed three NMSU teammates ganged up on and sexually assaulted two players, Deuce Benjamin and Shak Odunewu. It also said Aggies’ coaches knew about the assaults and said or did nothing about them.

Attorney Joleen Youngers said the settlement involves the players, coaches, and the New Mexico State board of regents. She did not disclose the settlement’s details. A school spokesman said they would soon be available in the state’s public records.

New Mexico State “abruptly” canceled the rest of its season in February after Benjamin filed a report with campus police. The police report “cited three players for false imprisonment, harassment and counts of criminal sexual contact against a teammate,” ESPN wrote.

“This action is clearly needed,” said Dan Arvizu, the chancellor of the NMSU system. “Hazing has no place on our campus, and those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions.”

Benjamin filed the report with campus police because he originally did not wish to press criminal charges. However, the state attorney general is currently looking into potential criminal charges.

Two months later, Benjamin and Odunewu filed the official lawsuit against three Aggies players, as well as coaches.

Benjamin said in an AP interview he felt “pretty much just a lot of anger. I can’t put my trust in people, and I’ve just come to despise people, really.”

“The important thing was getting a settlement that reasonably compensates them and allows them to put this matter behind them,” Youngers said. “Because a lawsuit like this can end up being a second victimization, where they have to go through months, if not years, of dealing with all the issues.”

“It took so much courage for them to stand up and voice their name. To say this happened and it was wrong, and to demand accountability,” Youngers added. “And they did it.”