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UNM Title IX findings: Ex-Lobo Bragg suspended from campus, Caldwell expelled

UNM Lobo forward Carlton Bragg, Montana’s Jared Samuelson, Mack Anderson and Lobo J.J. Caldwell battle for a loose ball during the game played at the Pit last December. Both Bragg and Caldwell were suspended later in the month. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

The University of New Mexico has expelled one former Lobo men’s basketball player and suspended the other after determining through an investigation of the university’s Title IX Office that both violated the university’s “sexual misconduct” administrative policy.

Neither Carlton Bragg, who graduated from UNM in the spring and is now in Poland playing professional basketball, nor Joseph “J.J.” Caldwell, who is back in his home state of Texas, were still enrolled at UNM or even in the state when the decisions were issued by the university’s Dean of Students (in early June for Bragg, Sept. 3 for Caldwell).

Neither has been charged with a crime related to the unrelated allegations, neither involving a UNM student, and both off campus.

Journal requests for records of the administrative decisions were initially denied, then later released, though heavily redacted.

Each allegation remains under review by 12th Judicial District Attorney John Sugg, the Alamogordo-based prosecutor who has been reviewing the cases since January after it was conflicted out of the office of Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, the husband of UNM Dean of Students Nasha Torrez. APD did not find cause to charge either player initially. Sugg has told the Journal the results of the review are likely this month.

Each player was suspended from the Lobo basketball team prior to the Dec. 22, 2019, game against Houston Baptist, though the university did not say why. The Journal later obtained Albuquerque Police Department reports for both matters.

On Nov. 5, 2019, a 20-year-old woman told APD that on Aug. 10, 2019, after a night of drinking with friends that including Bragg and his girlfriend, that the 6-foot-10 Bragg tried to have sex with her in her apartment, repeatedly kissing her and trying to unbutton her pants, though she recorded audio that could hear her telling him to stop. The two did not have sex, the report stated.

APD did not arrest Bragg after the report was filed and UNM was not notified immediately. After serving a three-game suspension, UNM cleared him to return to the team. He later was arrested for a drunken driving charge and dismissed from the team for that.

In his sanction letter from the Office of the Dean of Students, Bragg was informed he violated UNM’s Administrative Policy 2720 (“Prohibited discrimination”) and 2740 (“Sexual misconduct”) and ruled his punishment be “deferred suspension, permanent conduct probation with conditions, and banning from campus.”

Should he want to return to campus for any reason or take part in any UNM basketball event, he would have to prove he has sought counseling and turn in to a Student Conduct Officer a “15-page research and reflection paper.”

The Journal tried several times to speak with Bragg’s attorney, Ian King. It is unclear how involved Bragg was in the Title IX Investigation.

Caldwell, who never was allowed back on the team following his December suspension, has a civil lawsuit ongoing against UNM, Nasha Torrez and athletic director Eddie Nuñez alleging violation of his due process, among other things. He was accused in December by an ex-girlfriend of at least two past physical assaults, one before the season started. The female, who initially spoke with the Journal, then later through an attorney, revealed her parents had contacted UNM in July 2019 and told athletic department of an abusive relationship between Caldwell and their daughter.

The female also reported to police that July incident on Dec. 3 and two weeks later filed another report saying she and Caldwell got in a fight seeing each other at a bar, going back to his apartment and then getting into an altercation there.

Caldwell, like Bragg uncharged criminally to this point, was told in a Sept. 3 letter from UNM’s Dean of Students that he has been expelled. One of his attorneys, Justine Fox-Young, confirmed Caldwell participated in UNM’s Title IX administrative investigation, but declined further comment while the criminal matter remains under review.

The heavily redacted sanction letter from dated Sept. 3 states he violated the university’s policy on sexual misconduct — “specifically for intimate partner violence.” The letter goes on to state he is expelled, loses his status as a student for an indefinite period of time and is barred from campus.

Through Fox-Young and co-counsel Paul Kennedy, Caldwell’s civil lawsuit states his constitutional rights were violated for a matter that was “based on unsubstantiated allegations” and that UNM hasn’t followed its own process to determine whether a student Code of Conduct violation has occurred.

It also alludes to a recent Department of Justice investigation into UNM and how it was found to have not been properly handling Title IX complaints.

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