NMSU players settle hazing lawsuit

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The Associated Press

The former New Mexico State basketball players who filed a lawsuit alleging they were ganged up on and sexually assaulted by teammates have settled the case, one of their attorneys said Tuesday.

Aggie players Deuce Benjamin and Shak Odunewu filed the lawsuit in April, alleging three players on the team assaulted them, while coaches who knew of the assaults did nothing about it.

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Attorney Joleen Youngers said all defendants — the players, coaches and the New Mexico State board of regents — were part of the settlement, and that she could not release the terms. A school spokesman said terms would be released on the state’s open-records website “soon.”

“The important thing was getting a settlement that reasonably compensates them and allows them to put this matter behind them, and helps them to move on,” 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.”

Separately, the state attorney general has been looking into potential criminal charges in the case.

The lawsuit came two months after the Aggies abruptly canceled the rest of their 2022-23 basketball season when Deuce Benjamin, a freshman guard, brought his allegations to campus police. The school characterized them as hazing allegations.

In an interview with The Associated Press shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Benjamin said he had lost his respect for people in the aftermath of what had happened.

“Pretty much just a lot of anger,” Benjamin said. “I can’t put my trust in people, and I’ve just come to despise people, really.”

The AP normally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault, but Benjamin and Odunewu had both agreed to let their names be used in both the lawsuit and subsequent media interviews, including the one with AP. Benjamin’s father, former Aggies star William Benjamin, joined his son and Odunewu as plaintiffs.

“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, and they did it,” Youngers said.