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Plaintiffs in NMSU basketball lawsuit give remarks

Deuce Benjamin speaking at press conference on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. Credit: KFOX14/CBS4
Deuce Benjamin speaking at press conference on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. Credit: KFOX14/CBS4
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The plaintiffs in the New Mexico State University basketball lawsuit spoke out.

Deuce Benjamin and Shaq Odunewu, along with legal representation, spoke at a press conference Wednesday.

Lawyers said they want justice, compensation and a fresh start for the two student-athletes.

“When locker room behavior goes to far, it’s far beyond hazing, it’s battery and sexual assault... and this is the behavior that brought us here today, that filed this lawsuit and fired a head coach,” Joleen Youngers, lawyer for William and Deuce Benjamin, said.

Deuce stood at the podium.

“Now because of this, I have to start all over again. Start my dream of being a Division I basketball player over again,” Deuce said. "There's a part of me that hasn't been the same again. And I want people to know that. I've changed," cried Deuce.

Deuce was a known star player in Las Cruces, his hometown.

Shaq Odunewu, the second player in the lawsuit, said he was scared that he was going to tarnish people in the program.

"It got to the point that I could not bear it anymore," Odunewu said.

Deuce's father, William, an Aggie basketball legend and Hall of Famer, said he feels like he failed his son.

Deuce and Shaq filed a lawsuit, alleging they were sexually assaulted by teammates and that the coaching staff and other administrators did nothing when they reported the assaults.

Three teammates allegedly forced them to pull their pants down below their ankles, then assaulted them.

William responded about Deuce being asked by NM State's news basketball coach, Jason Hooten, to move on.

"He saw my son practicing in the gym, and spoke with him without me being present, and basically informed him it would be in his best interest to go make a name for himself somewhere else," William said.

Former NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu canceled the season in February after Benjamin took his allegations to school police. Arvizu framed the allegations as stemming from a hazing episode. The lawsuit took issue with that.

Attorneys are awaiting for the defendants, Deshwndre Washington, Kim Aiken Jr. and Doctor Bradley, to be served.

"When the behavior continues month after month even after reports it cannot be considered a right of initiation. Instead it's crossed the line to harassment and to abuse and when coaches and universities do not take action to even prevent it from happening or to stop it from happening they fail their student athletes,” Youngers said.

Attorney said they are prepared to go to trial.

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In April, New Mexico State athletic director Mario Moccia signed a contract extension on the same day that chancellor Dan Arvizu stepped down.

Attorney said he is "shocked" to hear that Moccia signed a contract extension.

RECOMMENDED: NMSU athletic director signs 5-year contract extension, receives pay raise

New Mexico State officials released its findings from the Greenberg Traurig investigation into the hazing and sexual assault allegations.

Greenberg Traurig, LLP could not make recommendations due to a civil lawsuit and arbitration proceeding.

The firm listed that they spoke to Dr. Amber Burdge, Roy Collins, III, Annamarie DeLovato, Kenneth L. Glascock, Nate Flores, Dr. Ann C. Goodman, Seth Miner, Mario Moccia, Dr. Allison Vaillancourt, and Charles J. Vigil, Esq., Rodey, Dickason, Sloan, Akin & Robb, P.A.

It did make recommendations about the university's anti-hazing policies and procedures.

NMSU should retain an independent, third-party to assist NMSU review and, to the extent necessary, revise its existing training modules to include the latest education in hazing prevention and response. The hazing prevention and response training should be provided to all employees and students, including athletes and students participating in fraternities and sororities.

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