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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Charges against football players dropped

The District Attorney’s Office formally dropped charges without prejudice against two Lobo football players and one former UNM student.

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said on Wednesday that due to a lack of evidence her office was unable to indict SaQwan Edwards, Crusoe Gongbay and Ryan Ruff on kidnapping and rape charges.

UNM is still following up on its own investigation, which could lead to disciplinary action including expulsion from school if it is found that the student-athletes violated the school’s code of conduct.

In a statement to the press, Brandenburg said her office has insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the three men committed the crimes they were accused of, and are therefore not seeking indictment.

“These kinds of cases can be very difficult and present challenging ethical issues,” Brandenburg said.

The charges were put on hold in June, when witnesses came forward whose statements cast doubt on the alleged victim’s official story.

Ruff’s attorney George Anthony Bleus released video footage from the night of the allegations that does not match the events as described in the police report.

In the video footage, the woman can be seen performing various sexual acts with one of the accused men, in a location that was not included in the criminal complaint.

Bleus said although he and his client are relieved that criminal charges have been dropped, he does not feel justice will be done until police admit they made a mistake and all records of the charges are expunged.

He said because the case never went to trial, evidence proving the men’s innocence was never seen by the public and some people will continue to have doubts about the case, hurting his client’s reputation for life.

“It’s still going to follow you for the rest of your life,” Bleus said. “These gentlemen should not be looked at as defendants anymore, nor as students that have these charges hanging over their head.”

Head football coach Bob Davie reinstated Edwards, a senior cornerback, and Gongbay, a senior running back. In a press statement Davie said the players are back in practice and could start in the team’s first game if they are ready.

“The reason I dismissed them was because of the criminal case, and once that criminal case was closed I saw no reason not to reinstate them,” Davie said. “I don’t have any agenda in this other than trying to do what I think is right and what I think is fair.”

Jonathan Baca is news editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com.