Initial court appearance of Nathaniel William Thomas, 17, who was charged with several felony counts in a case which began with allegations of hazing at Hamilton High School in Chandler. Maricopa County Superior Court
A hearing to potentially set a bond for the 17-year-old Hamilton High School football player charged with sexual assault and several other felonies against younger players was underway Wednesday afternoon.
The high-school junior, Nathaniel William Thomas, has been in jail since his arrest last week. He has been charged by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office with one count of sexual assault, three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of molestation in connection to incidents that occurred against four peers in the school’s locker room.
According to court documents, Thomas allegedly used a finger to molest one teammate between August and October 2015 and attempted to do it to others during a 17-month-long period. The latest reported offenses are believed to have occurred as late as January.
Arresting documents state Thomas had threatened witnesses or the victims with threats of violence if they tried to report the crime. The incidents were first reported to Chandler police by a third party in February. Thomas was subsequently charged in March along with two 16-year-olds, who will be prosecuted in juvenile court.
The Arizona Republic does not identify juvenile defendants unless they are charged as an adult.
As Thomas is charged with sexual assault with a minor victim, he has been charged with felony counts and held without bond in the Maricopa County Jail until an evidentiary hearing can determine what threat, if any, he poses to the community. A previous provision to unequivocally deny bail based on the charge was struck down earlier this year by the Arizona Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, family members, friends and teammates flooded the hallways of the courthouse and said a prayer for strength and positive resolution before the hearing’s 1:30 p.m. start in Maricopa County Superior Court.
The crowd was so large that some had to stay behind in the hallway during the proceedings. High-school-aged students squeezed uncomfortably into the gallery rows. Some sat on arm rests and others sat on the ground, as they were not permitted to stand in the back of the courtroom or on laps.
When Thomas entered the courtroom in a dark suit, pink shirt and tie, several people burst into tears.
The teen’s attorney, Ken Countryman, said March 31 that Thomas vehemently denies all of the charges and that he is confident his client will be released from jail.
“It’s outrageous that he’s in custody without bond. He’s a child, and a lot of these allegations are not even lodged against my client,” Countryman said. “I’m just really upset that the family has to go through this and he doesn’t have a chance to defend himself with his family.”
Thomas’ sexual assault charge alone carries a presumptive sentence of seven years in prison if he is found guilty.
Republic reporter William Everett contributed to this article.
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