Authorities yet to take action

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By David Giuliani

State police are continuing their investigation into alleged violent hazing during a Robertson High School football camp last week. And officials aren’t revealing any details about their investigation.

“It would be nice if things were like ‘CSI’ and everything got figured out in an hour,” said state police Sgt. Andy Tingwall. “The state police are going to have a thorough investigation. It’s important that every step be followed.”

The school district has confirmed that one player alleged that his attackers used a broomstick to sodomize him. The district’s superintendent, Rick Romero, has referred to that allegation as mostly false, but he won’t divulge his reasoning. He has stressed that he regards the alleged hazing as a serious matter.

The alleged activity took place while the football players were at the Western Life Camp, 15 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the Gallinas Canyon.

Las Vegas City School board member Philip Leger said he was told the alleged abuse took place Tuesday afternoon, and that coaches and parents (acting as chaperones) were at the camp at the time. Responding to claims that one coach had witnessed the abuse and walked away rather than stopping it, Leger said “Some parents say it didn’t happen and some say it did; there are conflicting stories on both sides.”

Asked why there was such a delay between the time the incident is alleged to have happened and the time the coaches apparently reported it, Leger said “We don’t know who reported it, whether it was coaches or parents. I don’t know that the coaches reported it at all. “

District Attorney Richard Flores, who prosecutes local cases, said he was to get a full briefing on the matter this morning.

“I don’t deal with rumors and speculation. Thus, I will have the agents give me the full details about the alleged victims and alleged perpetrator,” Flores said in a statement.

Flores said it looked as if his office may have several conflicts of interest if it were to prosecute the matter. If that is the case, Flores would have to send the highly publicized case to another district attorney.

The Las Vegas City Schools district has placed six football players on 10-day suspensions from school and the team. Superintendent Romero said Monday that the district would extend those suspensions if the investigation continues.

The district put on paid leave the head coach, Ray Woods, and his coaching staff, as well as Athletic Director Mike Yara. Richard Martinez has taken over as interim coach, with Pat Garcia as his assistant; both are City Schools employees.

City police officers were on hand Monday at Robertson, the first day of school, because of a “potentially volatile situation,” Romero said. But it turned out that the campus was relatively peaceful, he said.

“Everything seemed to be fine. We didn’t receive any phone calls otherwise,” he said.

Jim Abreu, the superintendent for West Las Vegas schools, said he hasn’t received any information that the six suspended students are trying to transfer to his district.

He said if they tried, West would review each student on a case-by-case basis. But he said that if they were on suspension from the City Schools, his district could refuse them. “We would presume they’re innocent until proven guilty,” he said.

As for playing football, any transferred students would have to wait three months before joining the West team, well into the season, Abreu said. That’s required by the New Mexico Activities Association, he said.

Abreu, who has coached before, said hazing happens everywhere, but it rarely gets as violent as what allegedly happened during the four-day Robertson camp.

“Everywhere you have older kids and younger kids, there may be hazing. It’s a common thing unfortunately. It’s as simple as covering people with shaving cream. Sometimes kids get out of hand,” Abreu said.

He said the goal should be to structure the schedule of a camp so that players have little time for hazing.

“You can never entirely stop it,” he said.

When hazing is violent, the coach should inform his supervisors immediately. In Robertson’s case, the alleged hazing reportedly occurred between last Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon, but state police apparently weren’t called until early Thursday evening. It’s not clear when coaches informed Robertson officials about the matter.

“I can understand the time lag,” Abreu said. “The coach may have tried to find out himself what happened. I’m assuming (the coaches) are pretty good guys.”

The Las Vegas City Schools board will take up the hazing allegations behind closed doors at its meeting at 5 p.m. today at the City Schools central office.

After the closed meeting, the board will decide whether to hire an attorney to help with the district’s investigation.