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Two New Mexico State men’s basketball players file lawsuit over hazing and sexual assault allegations

By Homero De la Fuente and Paradise Afshar, CNN

Two former New Mexico State University (NMSU) men’s basketball players filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against former head coach Greg Heiar, three former NMSU players, assistant head coach Dominique Taylor and the NMSU Board of Regents, citing alleged hazing and sexual assault incidents within the team.

According to the lawsuit obtained by CNN affiliate KOAT and shared with CNN, former players William Benjamin and Shakiru Odunewu detail several alleged incidents where they say they were hazed and sexually assaulted by the three former teammates named as defendants in the suit.

Benjamin’s father is named as the third plaintiff in the lawsuit. Benjamin and Odunewu say they reported the alleged incidents to the NMSU coaching staff but that no action was taken, according to the lawsuit.

In one alleged incident, the lawsuit states that Odunewu says he was attacked and sexually assaulted by the three players while on the team bus during a road trip.

After reporting the alleged assault, according to the lawsuit, Heiar said that he would look into the incident and issue suspensions but never did.

“While NMSU does not comment on pending litigation, we want to assure everyone that this issue is being taken seriously,” the school said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”

In February, Heiar was fired after the school announced that the men’s basketball program was suspended for the remainder of the season over the hazing allegations within the team.

CNN has been unable to reach Heiar and Taylor for comment.

“This action is clearly needed, especially after receiving additional facts and reviewing investigation reports related to the hazing allegations involving student-athletes on the team,” New Mexico State University Chancellor Dan E. Arvizu said in a statement to CNN in February.

“Hazing has no place on our campus, and those found responsible will be held accountable for their actions. We must uphold the safety of our students and the integrity of our university. It’s time for this program to reset.”

Though university officials did not provide details on the allegations, a member of the men’s basketball team told school police that he had been subjected to “ongoing ‘hazing’ … while in the men’s basketball locker room” since the summer, according to a New Mexico State University Police Department case report obtained by CNN affiliate KVIA and shared with CNN.

At the time, New Mexico State University said it was hiring “another law firm to conduct another internal investigation” according to the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Benjamin and Odunewu will not be a part of the team next season.

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