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
Maricopa County Superior Court records released Friday have identified a Hamilton High School football player charged with sexual assault and several other serious crimes in connection with attacks on other players.
Nathaniel William Thomas, 17, was charged by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office on Wednesday with one count of sexual assault, three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of kidnapping and two counts of molestation.
The charges relate to attacks on three teammates on school property. At Thomas’ initial court appearance this week, a county prosecutor said Thomas digitally penetrated one of his fellow players and attempted to do the same to two others.
His attorney, Ken Countryman, said at the teen’s initial appearance that Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and has not admitted to anything. He described the high-school junior as a good, employed student who has strong family support.
Countryman said there were no witnesses to the alleged sexual assault. However, the prosecutor said the victim reported that Thomas participated in the act while another victim reportedly told investigators that he moved away from Thomas to avoid being attacked in the same way.
In most cases, The Arizona Republic does not identify juvenile defendants unless they are charged as an adult.
Thomas was denied bond at an initial appearance early Friday morning. He is scheduled for an evidentiary hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court on April 5.
In cases involving the sexual abuse of minors, defendants are held without bond until an evidentiary hearing, dubbed a “Simpson hearing,” can determine what threat, if any, the defendant poses to the community. Previous provisions to deny bail to defendants accused of sexual assault of minors under the age of 15 were struck down by the Arizona Supreme Court in February.
Countryman told The Republic on Friday evening he is confident that Thomas will be exonerated from the allegations, but he is first hoping to get him out of custody. He said the case against Thomas is “overcharged and completely overblown.”
“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.”
In addition to Thomas, two 16-year-old suspects also were arrested in connection with the case. They have been charged as juveniles, with counts of kidnapping, aggravated assault and assault. Because they have been charged as juveniles, their names are not being released.
Thomas was arrested at the school by Chandler police with five other students earlier this week. Prosecutors continue to investigate a charge that Chandler police are seeking against a 15-year-old player believed to be involved. Two other players arrested have since been released.
Police said they were alerted by a third party in February to the series of crimes described as being part of a 17-month-long hazing incident at the school.
Police said the crimes impacted “multiple male victims” on the high school’s football team. The series of related crimes likely occurred on school grounds, located at Arizona Avenue and Ocotillo Road, police said.
Thomas, a student at both Hamilton and Chief Hill Learning Academy, was listed as a defensive back on the 2016 Hamilton football roster, but was not among regular starters.
According to police records released Friday, witnesses or the victim received threats of violence if they tried to report the crime.
Chandler police believe there is a possibility other victims may exist and have urged those with information about the case to call 480-782-4130.
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