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Prosecutor won’t pursue case against ex-Lobo Bragg

Carlton Bragg had been accused of sexual misconduct, but a district attorney has declined to pursue the case months after receiving it against the former UNM Lobo. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

A state prosecutor reviewing since January allegations of sexual misconduct against former Lobo basketball player Carlton Bragg says he won’t be prosecuting the case.

In a 14-page declination letter to detectives from the Albuquerque Police Department and New Mexico State Police, 12th Judicial District Attorney John. P Sugg wrote he was “declining prosecution in this case as there is insufficient evidence to support the allegations.”

Bragg was one of two University of New Mexico men’s basketball players (the other was point guard J.J. Caldwell) suspended on Dec. 22 for unrelated allegations of misconduct toward women. Neither was charged, though Sugg is still reviewing allegations of physical abuse by Caldwell.

In Bragg’s case, a woman filed a complaint with the school’s Office of Equal Opportunity several days prior to his suspension, when it was also learned she had also filed a report with the Albuquerque Police Department on Nov. 5. She alleged that, after a night of heavy drinking in August with the 6-foot-10 Bragg and his girlfriend, Bragg tried having sex with her while his girlfriend slept in another apartment.

UNM never disclosed what the allegations were but the Journal obtained and reported on the APD police report in early January.

Sugg said review of several investigations – UNM, APD, state police and his office – led him to decide he could not bring the case in good faith and “no further action will be taken by our office.”

The Lobos reinstated Bragg in January after a three-game suspension, though he was later that month arrested for a DUI charge and subsequently removed from the team. Bragg and the state reached a plea agreement in July and was fined and sentenced to 24 hours of community service.

The university’s administrative OEO investigation determined he violated a school policy for sexual misconduct, and he has been suspended from campus.

Bragg graduated from UNM in the spring, left Albuquerque and now plays professional basketball overseas. Should he ever want to return to UNM, his sanction letter from the Dean of Student’s Office states he must, among other things, write a 15-page “reflection” paper.

It is unclear how much, if at all, Bragg participated in that administrative investigation, though the district attorney’s office did executed a search warrant to review all the records related to UNM’s case.

UNM’s Dean of Students, Nasha Torrez, oversaw the university’s discipline in the case, which is ultimately why Albuquerque-based District Attorney Raul Torrez recused himself from reviewing the matter to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. A statement from Bragg’s Albuquerque attorney, Ian King, was not received in time for publication.

In Sugg’s letter, he wrote, “There are a number of factors that make it extremely unlikely that the State could sustain a conviction for any of these crimes.”

Among the concerns, per the letter obtained by the Journal:

• Text messages from the accuser to a friend the early morning hours in question clearly show she was upset, even stating she felt like crying, did not specifically mention a physical assault or sexual assault other than “(Bragg) just came up on me” and later that he “was trying to kiss me.”

• The accuser stated Bragg came and went from the apartment she was in (to a nearby apartment where his girlfriend was sleeping) six times, but she never locked the door or called police when he left.

• Cell phone video recordings from the accuser did not show Bragg doing anything criminal, but did show him trying to kiss her and “generally making sexual advances.”

Sugg also noted that defense attorneys for both Bragg and Caldwell told police that their cases might be related and “motivated by a financial incentive to sue the athletes and/or UNM.”

Sugg’s letter adds “my office had already noted that there appeared to be a connection between the three alleged victims (Bragg’s, Caldwell’s and the accuser of former Lobo football player Sheriron Jones, who was acquitted in a jury trial just last month of indecent exposure).” All three are friends, two were roommates and two accompanied each other when filing one of the police reports, the letter said.

Caldwell has been expelled from UNM, never returned to the team last season, is also still pursuing a civil suit against UNM for a violation of his due process. Sugg said his review of the Caldwell criminal allegations is near completion.

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