Accused leader in New Mexico soccer hazing faced charges
HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — The suspected ringleader of a hazing on a New Mexico high school soccer team faced criminal charges in a sexual misconduct case last year but the case was dismissed, prosecutors and police records say.
News of the charges come after a parent of a former player filed a federal lawsuit, alleging a series of sexual assaults by the Hobbs High School boys’ soccer team as part of hazing rituals.
The 2016 incident on a school bus during a team road trip was caught on cellphone video. A bare-bottomed player sat on the back of the head of a freshman player as others held him down, the Hobbs News-Sun report ed Wednesday.
Several students can be heard laughing, according to the video that the newspaper obtained. Police in the city of Hobbs began investigating in early 2017.
The player, who was 17 at the time, was charged with tampering with evidence and bribery or intimidation of a witness, both felonies. A judge said the charges were dismissed because of a lack of witness cooperation.
A player accused of distributing the video through social media was charged with sexual exploitation of children, police reports say. The 15-year-old boy pleaded guilty, completed his probation and had his charge dismissed.
An arrest warrant was written for a third player, who was 17 at the time, on a charge of sexual exploitation of children over distributing the video. A judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to approve the warrant.
According to police reports, officers spoke with the freshman player who had been attacked in the video.
″(The victim) stated it was a joke and they did it because it was his birthday,” a Hobbs police officer wrote in a report. ”(The victim) stated it was a joke that went too far, but he was OK with it.”
The incident is one of those alleged in a lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque against the school and coaches.
The parent who sued is alleging her son was raped by teammates in 2016 shortly after another player was sexually assaulted on a bus.
Hobbs Municipal Schools Superintendent T.J. Parks declined to comment on the lawsuit. But he said this month that the district was investigating allegations of player misconduct within the boys’ soccer program.