Las Cruces, N.M. (Associated Press/KTSM) – Two former New Mexico State basketball players and a student manager filed a lawsuit Monday saying their teammates frequently brought guns into the locker room where they sexually assaulted players as a way of ensuring everyone on the team remained “humble.”
Kyle Feit, along with a teammate and student manager who did not want their names used, filed the lawsuit in district court in Las Cruces, New Mexico, against the school, its athletic director, Mario Moccia, and former coaches Greg Heiar and Dominique Taylor and former players Kim Aiken Jr., Doctor Bradley and Deshawndre Washington. All but Moccia were fired or left last season; Moccia received a five-year contract extension and a raise, as KTSM reported in April. Moccia did not comment on the lawsuit when contacted by KTSM on Monday night.
The lawsuit was filed the same day as the Aggies’ 2023-24 season opener, at Kentucky, the first game of the Jason Hooten era with no players or coaches from the 2022-23 season on the team. It also comes as Doctor Bradley opened the 2023-24 season on the Nicholls State roster, on the road at Tulane on Monday evening.
Despite two lawsuits naming him as a defendant, an NMSU OIE investigation finding him, Aiken Jr. and Washington responsible of multiple Title IX sexual misconduct violations and a New Mexico Attorney General investigation for potential criminal charges, Doctor Bradley remains a member of the Nicholls roster as of Monday night. The university has not responded to multiple requests for comment from KTSM since August.
Aiken Jr. and Washington are not playing college basketball this season. Heiar is now the head coach at Mineral Area College, a junior college in Missouri.
Feit revealed his name, the lawsuit says, because “his interest in speaking out and holding all of the defendants accountable outweighs his desire to protect his personal privacy interests.”
Some of the allegations — that players would sexually assault teammates after forcing them to pull their pants down — were similar to those made in a lawsuit the school settled earlier this year with former players Shak Odunewu and Deuce Benjamin, along with Benjamin’s father, for an amount totaling $8 million.
The new lawsuit claims that in addition to being assaulted in much the same way as Benjamin and Odunewu, guns were a regular presence in the locker room and elsewhere on campus and on team trips. The lawsuit describes Feit as having guns pointed at him from inside car windows three times as he was walking across campus.
Guns are not allowed on New Mexico State’s campus, nor on trips involving school activities. The school’s enforcement of that rule came under increased scrutiny when former player Mike Peake shot and killed a University of New Mexico student while the team was on a road trip in Albuquerque. Peake was not charged with a crime because video showed he was acting in self-defense.
After the Peake shooting, the lawsuit says, “the presence of guns (within the team) became even more real and menacing. (Feit) knew his teammates were in fear of retribution for the shooting and the atmosphere was very tense.”
The lawsuit alleges that Washington was one of the players who was “known and seen with a handgun,” as well as to talk about his history of gun usage. The lawsuit alleges this “increased his power over his fellow students and the threat he posed.” In the NMSU OIE report, Washington was dubbed the “ringleader” of the sexual assault and hazing that is alleged to have happened within the NMSU locker room.
Reports of players carrying guns were made by other student-athletes, included a football player, the lawsuit alleges. Additionally, a player who was not a United States citizen told Greg Heiar of guns in the locker room, the lawsuit alleges, saying it could jeopardize his immigration status. The lawsuit stated that nothing changed, except that that player was cut from the team.
The lawsuit says Feit, who previously played at Arizona State and was featured in some of New Mexico State’s early season promotional materials in 2022, was on the verge of quitting the team before administrators abruptly canceled the season in February.
The lawsuit says Feit was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder while at New Mexico State. He moved away from campus and earlier this year signed with a pro team in Israel. He has since returned home due to the war in the region.
“His PTSD was triggered by the war in Israel, resulting in him living in constant fear and worsening his condition,” the lawsuit says.
New Mexico State spokesman Justin Bannister said the school does not comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit was filed less than a week after the revelation that the same three players who were named in the lawsuit were found responsible for sexual misconduct, according to a Title IX investigation spearheaded by the school, as KTSM first reported last Wednesday.
KTSM reported that the investigation determined the players, as a way of making sure their teammates stayed “humble,” would demand other players pull down their pants and expose their genitals, while also sometimes grabbing those players’ genitals.
All three plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege the players did similar things to them.
“It became difficult for Kyle Feit to focus on basketball and he felt like he was losing his love for the sport,” the lawsuit said. “Going to the gym had always been a safe and positive place, and it was no longer. His game suffered, as did his well-being.”
Moccia’s name is mentioned as a defendant in the lawsuit, the first time that he has been formally accused of any wrongdoing throughout this entire case. The lawsuit mentions that Moccia was given a contract extension in April, in the midst of the allegations and investigations.
That contract is currently not being paid by state funds, at the request of state leaders following Moccia’s receipt of a five-year contract extension amid multiple investigations into the NMSU athletic department within the last year, pending the completion of all investigations.
Moccia’s salary, “is being paid 100 percent by the Aggie Athletic Club (AAC). The AAC is the philanthropic arm of NMSU Athletics. All funds related to the AAC are deposited with the NMSU Foundation. Funds include private donations provided for the support of NMSU Athletics operations as well as proceeds from memberships, suite and club seat sales, and various AAC special events held throughout the year. Director Moccia’s compensation will continue to be paid by AAC pending the outcome of all investigations,” according to a letter obtained by KTSM over the summer.