• Steve Belles with Brad Cesmat

    Steve Belles with Brad Cesmat

  • Nathaniel Thomas arraignment

    Nathaniel Thomas arraignment

  • Attorney defends charged Hamilton player

    Attorney defends charged Hamilton player

  • Nathaniel Thomas released from jail

    Nathaniel Thomas released from jail

  • Nathaniel Thomas's initial court appearance

    Nathaniel Thomas’s initial court appearance

  • Here's what we know about the Hamilton High arrests

    Here’s what we know about the Hamilton High arrests

Chandler police are recommending additional criminal charges against Hamilton High School Principal Ken James and former head football coach Steve Belles after a sixth victim stepped forward to report being sexually attacked by team members.  

A total of four charges of child abuse now are being sought by police against both James and Belles. Chandler police allege the two men knew about the assaults but did not contact authorities, opting to investigate matters themselves.

The additional recommended charge was sent to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office on Aug. 31 after another victim came forward and reported more alleged attacks, said Sgt. Daniel Meija, a Chandler police spokesman. 

In addition to James and Belles, Athletic Director Shawn Rustad could face charges of non-compliance with a “duty to report” law and child abuse in the case, police said. 


Charges sought vs. Hamilton principal, ex-coach

Chandler police seek charges vs. Hamilton athletic director

No charging decision yet

It’s been eight weeks since Chandler police initially recommended the three men be charged. 

No charging decision has yet been made by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which is continuing to review the case.

Until then, the three men remain on campus under the “presumption of innocence,” according to Terry Locke, Chandler Unified School District spokesman.

Chandler police sought charges against James, Belles and Rustad in late July, saying in a probable-cause statement submitted to a court that the men knew about the alleged assaults but did not contact law enforcement, instead opting to handle the matter in-house. 

Belles has been relieved of his coaching duties and has been teaching full time this school year

“It is important to understand that no adjudication has been made that reporting procedures were not followed,” Locke told The Arizona Republic, adding that the men are “innocent until proven guilty under our country’s system of justice.”

Police allege that multiple physical and sexual assaults were committed in the football locker room between fall 2015 and January 2017 by members of the football team on younger players new to the program. 

Police said assaults occurred at varying levels of criminal offense and included penetration. Victims said they were referred to as “fresh meat” who had to be hazed. 

A victim later provided a written statement to police about his meeting with Rustad in January, the court statement said. The victim said he specifically told Rustad, “They had held me down, pulled my pants down.”

The victim also told police that Rustad asked him if he had been penetrated.  

Rustad then recounted details he obtained from that interview, about players pulling down each other’s shorts, to the victim’s parent, according to the court document.


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Alerted by third party

Police and Chandler Unified School District officials have said a third party alerted them in February about the attacks, which are believed to have occurred from September 2015 to January 2017.

The initial probable-cause statement that outlines the reasons police are seeking the charges against James and Belles says the two knew about the alleged assaults but did not contact law enforcement. Instead, they opted to investigate matters themselves, the document says.

Educators are required by law to report all known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. It is not their job to determine whether the allegations are valid.

The families of five victims have so far filed notice of claims against Chandler Unified School District. The district now faces a total of $34 million in damages over allegations that coaches took steps to cover up hazing on campus.

The notices of claim, all filed by attorney Daniel Raynak, contend the district was negligent in supervising and hiring the school’s football coaches, who “did nothing to prevent these attacks.”

Three teenagers who were members of the team also face criminal charges in the case.

Chandler police said the investigation is ongoing and that more victims may step forward. 


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