Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
SANTA FE - Parents of four former Española Valley High School boys basketball players are suing the school district, its superintendent, former state champion basketball coach Richard Martinez and his brother for retaliation and battery - including claims that the coach subjected one player to what was known as the "atomic punch."
Richard Martinez was fired by then-Superintendent Bobbie Gutierrez as coach and physical education teacher in April 2016, a few weeks after he led the Sun-devils to a state basketball championship, after allegations that he had been mentally and physically abusive to players and other students.
A day later, the Journal confirmed that the state Public Education Department had launched an investigation into "serious ethical and criminal misconduct" by Richard Martinez that could result in his losing his teaching and coaching licenses.
Gutierrez was forced by the school board to resign after firing Martinez, and in July, the school district's new superintendent, Eric V. Martinez, no relation to the coach, reinstated the coach and assigned him a job overseeing the physical education curriculum that did not require him to have contact with students "despite knowing of the allegations of verbal and physical abuse against him," the lawsuit maintains.
Later that month, a settlement was reached between the coach and Española Public Schools that required him to attend sensitivity training.
Richard Martinez's brother, Eric Martinez, also known as Fredrick Martinez, was picked to coach the boys team after Richard was removed and continues in that position in the ongoing 2016-17 season. As Fredrick Martinez, the brother is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, in part for allegedly telling players that "things were going to be harder for them" because they had complained about their treatment by Richard Martinez.
Richard Martinez has continued working in an office job for the Española school district while a PED hearing on action against his educational licenses is pending.
The lawsuit filed in District Court in Santa Fe last week by parents Darrell and Christine Roybal, Rick and Cinderella Herrera, and Jose Serrano alleges that both the parents and their sons were interviewed by PED investigators and that the boys were cut from the basketball team this year in retaliation for speaking to investigators.
"Kicking them off the team could not have been done without instructions and orders from Defendants Richard R. Martinez and Frederick Martinez," the lawsuit says. The cuts also could not have been made without the knowledge of Superintendent Eric V. Martinez and the school board, the parents allege.
The suit's battery charge apparently stems from an alleged incident that occurred in June, after Richard Martinez had been fired.
According to a PED's Notice of Contemplated Action against the coach released in August, Richard Martinez participated in a fight with the father of a player, kicking him and punching him. The report says the man temporarily lost his hearing during the fight and ended up with a broken finger and scratches to his arm and head.
The lawsuit says the coach "punched and kicked" Rick Herrera repeatedly during this incident and told Herrera, "I can't wait to get back to the district because all the kids are going to pay." The suit also alleges the coach "repeatedly and persistently" committed battery against one of Serrano's sons, identified only by his initials, G.S. The battery occurred in several ways, according to the lawsuit, one a game called "blinking," in which the coach would pretend he was going to hit the boy. If the boy blinked, he would follow through with a punch. If the boy refused to play the game, the coach benched him.
Another form of battery was the "atomic punch."
"From time to time, punching G.S. in the chest, calling the maneuver Atomic Pound or Atomic Punch," the lawsuit says.
The plaintiffs, represented by Santa Fe lawyer Pierre Levy, are asking for attorney fees and punitive damages.
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