Player missed the entire 2012 season
University of New Mexico quarterback David Vega has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging false arrest and false imprisonment by the Albuquerque Police Department stemming from an Aug. 26 incident that resulted in Vega’s suspension from the team for the entire 2012 season.
The lawsuit also accuses APD of negligence in the training of Officers Yoki Maurx and Michael Harrison and in the retention of Maurx, who in 2011 pleaded guilty to knowingly having provided false testimony in a 2009 DWI case.
Vega is asking for a jury trial and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Aug. 31: UT-San Antonio at UNM, time, TV TBA
Albuquerque attorney Colin Hunter, who filed the lawsuit on Vega’s behalf, said the case “isn’t even a close call.
“(Maurx and Harrison) knew when they chose to arrest David that he didn’t do anything at all, but they arrested him anyway.”
APD, as a policy, does not comment on pending lawsuits.
The charges on which Vega was arrested, underage drinking and concealing his identity, were dismissed in February. District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said the charges were dismissed because a judge ruled the search was illegal.
Neither Vega nor his three roommates were charged with possession of stolen property. According to the lawsuit, all four occupants of the house were asleep when Maurx and Harrison arrived, and none was seen drinking.
Vega – now 21, but 20 at the time of his arrest – was reinstated to the team by coach Bob Davie shortly after the charges were dismissed Feb. 11.
According to the lawsuit, Maurx and Harrison followed a tracking signal from a stolen cellphone to the neighborhood where Vega and three roommates lived.
Finding what appeared to be vomit next to a vehicle outside Vega’s home, Maurx alledgedly used concern about alcohol poisoning as a pretext to enter the house.
Vega and his three roommates were pressured to sign consent forms, according to the lawsuit, authorizing Maurx and Harrison to enter – even though the officers had already done so. Vega refused, disputing the officers’ right to have entered, and was arrested. His roommates, who signed the consent forms, were not.
Video taken from Maurx’s lapel camera, Hunter said, clearly shows the two police officers used the vomit stain as a pretext for an unlawful search. Then, according to the lawsuit, Maurx’s lapel camera either was turned off before Vega’s arrest or the recording was subsequently destroyed.
Vega’s arrest, brief incarceration, suspension and media coverage of the incident, the lawsuit states, subjected the former Roswell Goddard and New Mexico Military Institute star to “extreme emotional duress, personal humiliation, loss of scholarship opportunities and the opportunity to play quarterback for a Division I university during the 2012-13 season.”
Vega is not on scholarship, but UNM is able to award a football scholarship, without it counting against its NCAA limit, to a walk-on athlete after the player has been in the program for two years. Vega entered the program in the spring of 2012.
Earlier in August, Vega was suspended from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules while the Lobos were training in Ruidoso. He was reinstated a week later, six days before his arrest in Albuquerque.
At the time of Vega’s second suspension, Davie said he had reason to believe the junior quarterback was innocent of the charges but felt he had no choice but to let the legal process take its course.
Of Vega’s second reinstatement, Davie said: “I feel totally comfortable giving David Vega a second chance. He did everything he was asked to do. … He earned his way back. He wasn’t given anything.”
At Goddard, Vega quarterbacked the Rockets to Class 4A state titles in 2008 and 2009 and was an All-State selection. At NMMI, he set a school record for passing yardage in a season.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal