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NMSU basketball players file lawsuit in relation to hazing allegations

On April 19, two former NMSU basketball players filed a lawsuit against the NMSU Board of Regents as well as former players and coaches in connection to the hazing allegations within the program.

The lawsuit was filed by former NMSU players Shakiru Odunewu, William Benjamin Jr., and Benjamin’s father.

The complaint alleges that former players Kim Aiken Jr., Doctor Bradley, and DeShawndre Washington committed acts of sexual assault and rape against Odunewu and Benjamin, and that even after Head Coach Greg Heiar and Assistant Coach Dominique Taylor were asked to intervene, nothing substantial was done.

According to the lawsuit, “Beginning no later than November 15, 2022, Defendant NMSU had actual knowledge of, and was deliberately indifferent to, the inappropriate harassment, attacks, sexual assaults and batteries,” that were being perpetrated.

When reached out for comment, an NMSU Spokesperson said, “While NMSU does not comment on pending litigation, we want to assure everyone that this issue is being taken seriously. As we announced earlier this year, the university is working with Greenberg Traurig to look into these allegations. Their work is underway and running in parallel to our own internal investigation into this matter.”

Heiar was fired in February, while his assistant coaching staff was put on paid administrative leave.

The NMSU Board of Regents held a meeting to discuss the lawsuit, followed by a written statement from the university on April 26.

"New Mexico State University has reviewed the recent lawsuit filed by Deuce and William Benjamin and Shakiru Odunewu concerning the Men's Basketball Program, and it continues to regard this matter as extremely important. NMSU has taken extensive measures, including, without limitation: recalling the entire basketball team from their road trip out of state, placing the entire coaching staff on administrative leave, launching an investigation, making mental health counseling available, canceling the remainder of the season, and firing the head coach. The kind of behavior described in those allegations has no place on our campus, and the university will soon launch a task force to facilitate implementation of preventive measures whose purpose is to identify and extinguish any opportunity for this to occur in the future," the university said.

This story was updated on April 26, 2023 to include NMSU's statement on the lawsuit:

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.