By Dave Connelly, Bridget Reilly, Sam DiGiovanni, Jonathan Kinane, Mackenzie Meaney, & Nicholas Stanziale
On Sunday, March 28, then-Marist College football player Bryan Vargas physically and verbally abused and threatened a 19-year-old Marist freshman, according to the alleged victim’s cousin. A court date is in place for Wednesday, April 7 at 9:00 a.m. in Hackensack, NJ, between Vargas and the victim for her to plead for a temporary restraining order to be made permanent.
Center Field was unable to contact Vargas. His lawyer told News 12 that he had no comment on the allegations. The Hackensack Police Department and court were also contacted but no response was given after a request for comment.
Center Field is withholding the alleged victim’s name. She did not respond to a request for comment.
The allegations against Vargas, a redshirt freshman defensive back, first surfaced on Facebook on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 30, when the alleged victim’s uncle left a comment beneath a Marist Athletics post accusing Vargas. An uproar followed within the Marist community on social media. Vargas was removed from the football team’s online roster on Tuesday night. By Wednesday, Vargas was no longer a student at Marist College. Vice President for Student Affairs Deborah DiCaprio announced in a memo to the student body that “as of this afternoon, the student accused of the assault is no longer a student at Marist College.” Center Field has learned that the student in question was Vargas.
After contacting the police, the alleged victim gained a temporary restraining order against Vargas.
This past week, Center Field was told that this was not the first time Vargas allegedly abused someone at Marist.
During the 2019-20 school year, a second victim, who wishes to remain anonymous but whose account Center Field has confirmed with two contemporaneous witnesses, was physically, verbally, and emotionally abused in an eight-month-long relationship with Vargas, she said.
“He would pick me up and throw me onto the bed, hold me down by my upper arm and just yell in my face and to the point where he was spitting,” the alleged second victim told Center Field. “He got so angry that he punched a hole into his dorm room wall.”
On the night of January 30, 2020, the anonymous victim and Vargas fought outside of Champagnat Hall. Vargas stole her laptop but denied it, according to witnesses Sahira Magnus, Skylar Segall, and the victim. When Vargas called several friends, the dispute escalated.
“The reason why that night ended so badly is because I have tried to tell people, and no one believed me,” said the second victim.
Center Field has learned that a video exists of this incident, showing Vargas verbally abusing and threatening the second victim outside of Champagnat Hall.
Marist Security came to the scene as the second victim fainted and showed bruises on her arm. After Marist learned of the events of that night, the school issued on-campus restraining orders between Vargas and the victim, as well as Segall, according to several sources.
Following the incident, both witnesses stated that Vargas served a one-week suspension from the football team.
DiCaprio declined to confirm the suspension, citing privacy protections under FERPA law. Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Matthew McMahon was prevented from talking by the same law. Marist Assistant Athletic Director and football Sports Information Director Mike Ferraro had no comment after a request from Center Field.
It was not the first altercation between the couple, she said.
“There was one night prior to the incident on January 30, we had gotten into an argument, and we were walking on the campus green, and he punched me in my stomach,” the second victim said. “He slapped me a few times. And I remember I tried to run away and he grabbed me, and I fell to the floor. And then he picks me back up and he started to shake me, like, clearly aggressively,” said the second victim. “He literally just ripped the entire sleeve of my jacket off.”
But after his suspension, Vargas began blackmailing the second victim, she said. According to Segall, he threatened to send personal photos of the second victim to her parents. Scared, the second victim decided not to report the case to campus authorities.
“The emotional and mental stuff — that type of abuse was almost every day, every single day,” the second victim said.
“At this point, because of the allegations against him, he basically told me that if I didn’t clear the situation, it would end really badly for me and my friends,” said the second victim. “So, after meeting with [the] Title IX [office], I basically told them that it was just a big misunderstanding. And when he was back on the football team, everything was basically cleared up.”
“Bryan is probably laughing at this situation as we speak,” Segall said. “He has no regard for these women — they’re only looked at as punching bags.”
Despite the restraining order, Vargas lived next door to Segall in Conklin Hall in the fall 2020 semester. Segall contacted Marist about the situation and she says she was told that she had to move out, not Vargas.
“He was really just an abusive person,” said Magnus. “He was manipulative. We were all just threatened because of him.”
The relationship between the victim and Vargas eventually ended. In another situation, when the victim was scared of Vargas’s actions, she called his mom.
“Bryan’s mom told me that she was very sorry, and that I should press charges,” said the second victim. The mother told her about yet another girl, before adding, “‘He did the same thing to her.’”
In Tuesday’s Facebook allegation, in a comment under a post from Marist Athletics announcing the football team’s future game against Army West Point, the victim’s uncle pleaded for action. The victim was sent to the hospital, according to the post.
On Tuesday evening, Sandra Belluardo created a petition on Change.org demanding that the college remove Vargas from campus. The petition, which included images of threatening and abusive messages reportedly sent by Vargas to the alleged victim, received over 21,000 signatures as of Monday night and described the alleged violence Vargas inflicted:
He beat her right thigh so bad that [the student] still two days later cannot stand on it, and she continues to have trouble walking. Her right arm hurts to move, and she has a bruise on her chest where he threw a phone at her.
An Instagram post about the petition rapidly circulated that evening and into the next day. Hundreds of Marist students, including several football teammates of Vargas, shared the post on their Instagram stories and relayed their disgust towards the purported abuser.
Ferraro said, “We cannot comment on the specifics of the case but we condemn any act of violence.”
Marist Athletics shared a post on Thursday, addressing domestic violence allegations. Director of Student-Athlete Enhancement Alyssa Gates told Center Field that every April, except last year, the football team and staff marched in the White Ribbon Campaign — a worldwide event that “works to end violence against women and girls.” The team will not be able to march this year due to COVID protocols. However, there are plans to participate in this year’s event in another way.
“I can assure you, this team cares DEEPLY about this issue, and immediately following the post on social media, I heard from several who want to DO SOMETHING to let our campus community know where they stand,” Gates told Center Field in an email.
Emma Boyce, the first alleged victim’s friend for more than seven years, shared a variety of text messages with Center Field that she says were sent between Vargas and his alleged victim on Instagram. She said their understanding was that it was not physical abuse until Sunday night. However, the abuse “has always been verbal and with the things he’s said to her.”
“I’ve been on FaceTime calls with her and he would call during them and if she didn’t pick up right away he would blow up on her and say terrible things,” Boyce told Center Field. “That night I found out what happened and contacted her cousin ASAP and her cousin went home to [the student] and called the cops. She went to the hospital because she couldn’t walk on her leg at all.”
“worm.mama” is Emma Boyce’s Instagram handle.
UPDATE – April 7th
Wednesday afternoon, four football players – redshirt junior safety Teddy Wright, redshirt junior cornerback Jamal Valentin, redshirt junior running back Dazhon Miller, and redshirt sophomore linebacker Arthur Pinckney – joined an on-campus demonstration calling for more diligence in the college’s Title IX department and more action taken against domestic abusers.
Wright addressed the crowd while Valentin held a megaphone and Miller held up a sign that reads “Title IX student advisory board now!”
“I just wanna speak on behalf of the football team and the players itself as a whole. We don’t stand for this” Wright said. He said that when the team heard about Vargas’ incident, the team immediately sought answers, urging the coaches to put out a statement condemning domestic violence. School rules forbade them from putting out a statement right away, but they did release a joint statement with the athletic department on Thursday, April 1st.
“We came out ourselves and made posts ourselves to show you guys that we genuinely care,” Wright continued. “We could never be in y’all shoes but we just want to tell you guys that we stand with y’all and will be every step of the way, and we don’t stand for that type of behavior.”
Edited by Bridget Reilly and Dave Connelly