Nathaniel William Thomas, 17, arrested on criminal charges in connection with an assault investigation at Chandler Hamilton High School, was released on bond from a Maricopa County jail on April 6, 2017. Logan Newman/azcentral.com
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Ken Countryman, the attorney of Hamilton High School football player Nathaniel Thomas, 17, was joined by the teen’s family and friends after the Thomas was granted a bond by a Maricopa County Superior Court judge Wednesday afternoon.
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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
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Here’s what we know about the Hamilton High School hazing arrests.
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Nathaniel Thomas released from jail
Attorney defends charged Hamilton player
Nathaniel Thomas’s initial court appearance
Here’s what we know about the Hamilton High arrests
2 other teens charged as juveniles potentially could be tried as adults, court records show.
A 17-year-old Hamilton High School football player charged with sexual assault and several other felonies against younger teammates was released from custody late Thursday morning.
The high school junior, Nathaniel William Thomas, stepped out of a door at Maricopa County’s Lower Buckeye Jail shortly before noon and was greeted with hugs.
He had no comment as he made his way to a car and was driven away.
A judge set a $25,000 bond for Thomas at a hearing Wednesday afternoon. He had been in jail since his arrest last week.
Two other defendants in the case, identified by authorities as 16-year-old students at Hamilton High School, were charged in Maricopa County Juvenile Court on March 30.
These two boys, also Hamilton football players, have remained in custody since their arrest at the school. Their next court hearings set later this month will determine if prosecutors will pursue adult charges.
Court records offer details on other charged teens
The two juvenile defendants have been charged with several counts of kidnapping and assault.
Court records state that one juvenile defendant was accused of participating only in the most recent locker-room offenses, listed as taking place from December 2016 to January. He is accused of restraining or placing two young victims in harm while the acts occurred. He also is accused of touching one of the victims in an assault, court records said.
The other defendant is accused of participating in offenses involving three victims going back to August 2015. He, too, is believed to have restrained and assaulted the boys, court records said.
If convicted in juvenile court, the 16-year-old defendants face several potential sentences, from being committed to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections until they turn 18, to probation. They could be ordered to pay monetary assessments or work unpaid community-service hours.
If the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office pursues adult felony charges against the teens and they are convicted, they may be sentenced to state prison, probation or pay fines.
The Arizona Republic does not identify juvenile defendants unless they are charged as adults.
Bond set for Thomas after several days in jail
Thomas was charged as an adult 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 with acts against four peers in the school’s locker room.
According to Maricopa County Superior Court documents, Thomas reportedly 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 violence if they tried to report what had happened. The incidents first were reported to Chandler police by a third party in February. Thomas was charged in March along with the two 16-year-olds.
Because Thomas is charged with a series of sex crimes against 14-year-olds, he initially was held without bond in a Maricopa County jail.
Wednesday’s hearing, originally intended to examine evidence and assess what risk, if any, he poses to the community, instead focused entirely on a bond being set for the teen.
Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Kevin Wein set the secured-appearance bond of $25,000 in addition to release conditions that included GPS and internet monitoring and house arrest.
Thomas’ next court appearance was scheduled for May 18.
Montgomery: Totality of circumstances help shape the charges
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery addressed the factors that were weighed in pursuing charges against Thomas and his two teammates at a news conference Wednesday.
Montgomery said his office weighed the nature and seriousness of the alleged offenses in addition to the amount of time to rehabilitate the defendants in the juvenile court system. He said charging a teen in the adult system isn’t always meant to pursue further punishment but could just be an effect of there being little time left before they become adults.
“We want to ensure this is a very thorough investigation because of the fact that minors are suspects themselves, as well as are the victims. We want to proceed very carefully,” Montgomery said. “I also want to make sure we know the totality of the conduct involved and that’s going to help us take a look at where is the best place to charge a particular case and handle the suspects and potentially defendants.”
Chandler police have urged anyone with information about the case who may be a witness or a victim to call police at 480-782-4130.
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