New Mexico State to pay $8M, settle suit in sexual assault allegation

Deuce Benjamin and Shak Odunewu were awarded a total of $8 million to settle their lawsuit against New Mexico State’s former head coach Greg Heiar, former assistant coach Dominique Taylor and former players Deshawndre Washington, Doctor Bradley and Kim Aiken Jr., attorney Joleen Youngers said.

Benjamin and his father, a co-plaintiff, were awarded $4.125 million and Odunewu receives $3.875 million and agree not to hold the university liable.

Both players entered the transfer portal but have not found a program. They have petitioned the NCAA for another year of eligibility.

Benjamin, former New Mexico Gatorade Player of the Year at Las Cruces High School, and Odunewu were the subjects of what they said was more than a hazing incident that involved other players and was ignored or allowed by coaches. The suit alleged the university dismissed sexual assault allegations by labeling them “hazing.”

Benjamin said in public comments in May that he hasn’t recovered from the “non-consensual touching” he said took place in the locker room, on the team bus and other team trips. He filed a police report on Feb. 10. NMSU chancellor Dan Arvizu suspended the basketball season the same day and Heiar was placed on leave, and then fired.

“My life hasn’t been easy since this happened. First it hurts then it changes you. There’s a part of me that hasn’t been the same since,” Benjamin said.

Police issued a report listing possible criminal charges including false imprisonment, criminal sexual contact and harassment. As of Wednesday, the New Mexico Attorney General was still investigating the allegations, according to the lawsuit.

Raul Carrillo, an attorney representing Heiar, said in a statement that Heiar “is pleased to have this chapter behind him and looks forward to returning to coaching.”

“The allegations against Coach Heiar were voluntarily dismissed before any discovery in the lawsuit took place, Carrillo said. “Coach Heiar’s version of events was never publicly discussed because he was never interviewed by his former employer, NMSU, or by the attorneys for the plaintiffs. There was no investigation by any agency or group which provided Coach Heiar with the ability to respond to any allegations — all of which he denies.”

Heiar, 47, was 9-15 before the 2022-23 season was suspended.

–Field Level Media