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New Mexico State University reaches $8 million settlement in sexual assault case against men’s athletic department

Ramez Shamieh Press

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – June 12, 2023 – New Mexico State University (NMSU) has reached a settlement in the lawsuit filed by two former men’s basketball players, Deuce Benjamin and Shak Odunewu, who alleged repeated instances of sexual assault by their teammates earlier this year. The players also claimed that coaches and other school administrators failed to respond appropriately upon receiving reports of the assaults.

Deuce Benjamin and his father, William, who was a co-defendant, will receive $4.1 million, while the other plaintiff, Shak Odunewu, will receive $3.9 million. As part of the settlement agreement, the NMSU Board of Regents “expressly deny any liability” for the events detailed in the lawsuit. Settlement funds will come from a state risk-management insurance policy and are not expected to impact the school’s annual budget.

Shamieh Law filed the lawsuit in New-Mexico’s County of Doña Ana Third Judicial District Court (Case No. D-307-CV-2023-00911) in April 2023, alongside co-counsel firm Almanzar & Youngers, P.A..

The complaint challenged Chancellor Dan Arvizu’s original characterization of the incidents on the NMSU basketball team as hazing, clarifying that the acts constituted nonconsensual touching, battery, and sexual assault. The defendants listed in the lawsuit included the two former members of the coaching staff, three former players, and the NMSU Board of Regents.

The lawsuit highlighted incidents where the players were caused pain and humiliation, with one assault in particular occurring in front of a group of women in a hotel room while the men were on a road trip.

Deuce Benjamin’s father, William Benjamin, a former NMSU athletic star and current high school coach in Las Cruces attempted to reach Athletic Director Mario Mocchia after his son informed him of the assaults. The elder Benjamin was unable to reach Mocchia, so on February 10, 2023, the younger Benjamin reported the incidences to NMSU Police, who launched a criminal investigation.

“We hope this settlement allows the plaintiffs to move on from this unfortunate instance of assault and negligence with the knowledge that the persons who engaged in this behavior and the staff who remained complacent have been held accountable,” shares Ramez Shamieh, Managing Partner of Shamieh Law.

About Shamieh Law

Based in Austin, Texas, Shamieh Law is a personal injury law firm with an emphasis on multiple practice areas, including car accidents, wrongful death, workplace injuries, contractual disputes, and much more.

Managing Partner, Ramez Shamieh, is passionate about providing the best legal service to every client. His work ethic, aggressiveness, and success in the courtroom has led to his recognition by several organizations as a leader in the trial lawyer community. Shamieh Law promises to treat every client like family and fight tirelessly until a favorable outcome is reached, or the client pays nothing.uding personal injury, wrongful death, and product liability cases. Founded by Ramez Shamieh over 7 years ago, the firm is committed to providing clients with outstanding legal representation and delivering exceptional results.

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