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UNM lifts campus ban on Lobo J.J. Caldwell, but not team suspension

University of New Mexico point guard J.J. Caldwell, with the basketball, is shown during action earlier this season. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

He’s not yet allowed back on the court, but he is allowed back on campus.

UNM Dean of Students Nasha Torrez on Friday sent suspended Lobo point guard J.J. Caldwell an email informing the junior his “emergency ban” from campus had been lifted.

That decision, however, did not lead UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez from lifting his suspension of Caldwell from the Lobo basketball team.

“Nothing has changed in regards to his status with the team,” Nuñez told the Journal, but made clear he can not comment on the Dean’s decision or about the ongoing Office of Equal Opportunity’s Title IX investigation into Caldwell. UNM athletics hasn’t had an active role in either the Dean’s Office’s decision or the OEO’s probe, but is the department that on Dec. 22 suspended Caldwell with only the vague statement of “The athletic department has received information that requires further review” as explanation.

Nuñez is one of five defendants named in a pending lawsuit filed by Caldwell alleging UNM has violated his due process rights in the matter.

Upon learning of Nuñez’s decision to keep his suspension in place, Caldwell’s attorney Justine Fox-Young, who is suing UNM along with Paul Kennedy, told the Journal she saw no justifiable reason for Caldwell being unable to rejoin the Lobos, who play UNLV in Las Vegas, Nev., on Saturday afternoon.

“The Dean of Students has fully reinstated J.J. and we are incredulous as to why he would not be able to also rejoin the basketball team,” Fox-Young said.

Earlier in the day, when the Journal learned of Torrez’s decision to lift Caldwell’s ban, his attorneys were much more optimistic about his returning to his team immediately.

“We are pleased that UNM has reconsidered its position and done the right in lifting the ban on J.J.,” Fox-Young, told the Journal. “We see no reason why he can’t play basketball at this point and we presume the athletic director will come to the same conclusion.”

Caldwell has missed the past six games after UNM learned on Dec. 18 of a police report filed by his ex-girlfriend alleging the two got into a physical altercation in his on-campus apartment on the night of Dec. 14 or early morning hours of Dec. 15. The woman’ filed the report on Dec. 16 and UNM has said it first learned of the matter two days later.

Albuquerque Police did not deem there to be enough evidence to charge Caldwell, forwarded the case to state prosecutors for review and also informed UNM about the allegation. The 12th Judicial District Attorney in Alamogordo is now reviewing the case to see if it merits pursuing a misdemeanor battery against a household member charge after Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez recused himself from reviewing the case because he is married to Nasha Torrez.

In her email to Caldwell — an email the Journal obtained but UNM declined to release, citing student privacy laws — Torrez told the basketball player, “The facts available to me at the time of this decision do not lead me to the conclusion that your presence on the campus may endanger persons or property or may threaten disruption of the academic process of other campus functions.

“I want to be clear that my decision regarding the Emergency Ban does not affect UNM Athletics’ decision about your participation on the basketball team.”

She added that he was now free to resume practicing and workouts at UNM’s Rudy Davalos practice facility, though Nuñez’s suspension from team activities remains in effect and he has to coordinate such individual workouts with the athletic department.

He remains on full athletic scholarship.

His attorney confirmed Caldwell is also moving back into his Lobo Village apartment, where landlords of a private company that partners with UNM for the on-campus living facility tried to evict Caldwell when the allegations surfaced last month.

Caldwell was placed on an emergency ban from campus by a student conduct officer in the Dean’s Office and Nasha Torrez’s Friday email was record of her decision on his appeal of that ban.

UNM would not comment on the case on Friday evening, but did send the Journal a lengthy email explaining, in general terms, the process of how an emergency ban is lifted.

Included in the email was the following: “The Dean’s decision on an Emergency Ban does not stop the OEO investigation and could be subject to change as the investigation proceeds.”

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