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BREAKING NEWS: Ex-RHS football players will stand trial

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By Dave Kavanaugh

SANTA FE -- Five former Robertson High football players will stand trial on charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and conspiracy for their roles in alleged attacks during a preseason camp.

The five young men, who were juniors at RHS before getting booted from school due to the camp scandal, are accused of holding several underclassmen against their will and sodomizing them with a broomstick. The alleged attacks took place Aug. 12 and 13 during a preseason "team-building" event at Western Life Camp in the Gallinas Canyon.

Santa Fe District Judge James Hall found probable cause in most of the approximately 79 criminal counts the five suspects were initially charged with. His conclusion came at the end of a three-day preliminary hearing at the Steve Herrera Judicial Complex in Santa Fe; the case is being prosecuted by Santa Fe's Henry Valdez due to concerns about empanelling a jury in Las Vegas, where it has been a central topic of conversation since August.

While Hall struck several charges against four of the five suspects, he found probable cause for all 19 counts against one of the young men. Still, each of the five faces multiple counts including criminal sexual penetration (rape), attempted criminal sexual penetration, kidnapping and conspiracy. The five had been charged with separate counts of attempted kidnapping, but Hall upgraded those charges to kidnapping in making his ruling on Thursday. He did that, he said, because the testimony presented during the hearing indicated the kidnapping, legally defined as detaining someone against their will with specific intent, was not merely an attempt but a completed act.

Defense attorneys for two of the young men took issue with the judge's upgrade of the chares to kidnapping, noting that the offense carries a much more serious sentence. One of the attorneys argued that his defense would have become more involved had he known the more serious charge would be included. Hall said he hoped to get some clarification on whether the upgrade is allowable.

Among the issues now to be decided is whether the five defendants will be tried separately or jointly. Each of them has his own attorney. Then Valdez and the attorneys will have to hammer out a trial date (or dates) with Hall.

For more, read Friday's Optic.