Steve Belles with Brad Cesmat | 16:18
Ex-Hamilton High School coach Steve Belles talked with Brad Cesmat about hazing, the criminal investigation and his future in coaching.
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Nathaniel Thomas arraignment | 2:25
Arraignment of Nathaniel Thomas, a Hamilton High School football player accused of assault, on Thursday, April 13, 2017.
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Attorney defends charged Hamilton player | 2:23
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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Nathaniel Thomas released from jail | 0:28
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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Nathaniel Thomas’s initial court appearance | 9:05
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 arrests | 0:38
Here’s what we know about the Hamilton High School hazing arrests.
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Steve Belles with Brad Cesmat
Nathaniel Thomas arraignment
Attorney defends charged Hamilton player
Nathaniel Thomas released from jail
Nathaniel Thomas’s initial court appearance
Here’s what we know about the Hamilton High arrests
Chandler police are searching for a person who made an anonymous phone call to a Hamilton High School official in January alleging that members of the school’s football team were being “picked on or harassed” in the locker room, Police Department officials said Thursday.
Someone called Shawn Rustad, the school’s former athletic director, and informed him that football players were being harassed, said Sgt. Daniel Mejia, in a statement released by police.
The disclosure by police is the latest development in its ongoing criminal investigation of allegations of sexual violence by some older players against younger members of the team. That investigation intensified this summer when police alleged several school officials did not report the matter to authorities once they became aware of accusations, as required by law.
Chandler police learned about the anonymous call to Rustad in the course of the ongoing investigation, Mejia said.
The call to Rustad is similar to a previous report included in court documents about a similar call to the school’s principal that same month. Mejia said police do not know if the anonymous caller to Rustad now being sought was the same person who called then-Principal Ken James.
Chandler police are asking the individual to come forward and call Chandler police Detective A. Nolan at 480-782-4495.
Chandler police are recommending criminal charges against Rustad. Charges also are being recommended to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office against former Principal Ken James and former head football coach Steve Belles.
Police allege that all three men failed to report sexual assaults that were part of violent hazing incidents involving team members to law enforcement after they became aware of them. Police are seeking charges of non-compliance with a “duty to report” law as well as child abuse charges against the men.
All three have been reassigned from their former positions by Chandler Unified School District officials.
So far, police say, six victims have come forward in the investigation. When the investigation first was disclosed by police, officials said there were four victims.
Three former members of the football team are facing criminal charges in connection with some of the incidents, which police say took place between 2015 and early 2017. One former team member is being prosecuted in adult court.
Police allege in court documents that Belles knew of the activity more than a year ago and told team members in several meetings to stop attacking each other.
A police document submitted to the court says parents first contacted James about the allegations in November 2016. It cites a follow-up meeting at which parents told James that a boy alleged penetration, according to the police statement.
Police allege James later met with the boy himself but the boy did not disclose any information. However, James kept notes about the meeting, with the words “hazing at camp,” which police found when serving a search warrant on him July 1, according to court records submitted by police.
Court records say the anonymous caller to James in January said football players were being “picked on or harassed” in the locker room. James then instructed Rustad to conduct interviews with four players on the team, court records say.
Court records say, “One of the students disclosed being held down and their clothes removed. Another student disclosed a juvenile’s pants were pulled down and a third student disclosed that one of the victims in this investigation was being harassed.”
Rustad did not notify the boys’ parents or police about his meetings with students, even though he had received training from the Chandler Unified School District on mandatory reporting laws, according to the police statement in those records.
None of the three school officials have been formally charged. The County Attorney’s Office is continuing to review the case.
All six alleged victims’ families have filed notices of claims with the Chandler district seeking a total of $44 million in damages.
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