Chandler Police recommend charges against Hamilton HS athletic director in hazing case

Posted at 4:49 PM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-28 13:20:09-04

More charges could be on the way in connection with hazing allegations among the football team at Hamilton High School.

The Chandler Police Department announced on Thursday that they’re recommending charges against the school’s athletic director, Shawn Rustad.

According to police paperwork, Rustad received a voicemail from an anonymous caller in January who alleged some teammates were being harassed and bullied in the locker room.

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After receiving the phone call, Rustad interviewed four students and did not notify their parents, police documents said. One of the students — an alleged victim in the investigation — admitted that he was held down and his clothes were removed.

Another player admitted to seeing a peer’s pants being pulled down and a third person said one of the alleged victims was being harassed, police paperwork said.

Rustad then told former coach Steve Belles to address the inappropriate behavior occurring among players on his team.

Rustad underwent mandatory training by CUSD regarding mandatory reporting laws, as well as a lesson on school protocol pertaining to how to deal with situations of hazing, sexual abuse and bullying.

However, the athletic director still failed to report the alleged incidents to police and/or the on-campus resource officer between last fall and January of this year, documents stated.

On Tuesday, the Chandler Police Department recommended that charges be filed against former coach Steve Belles and current principal Ken James for failing to report the claims to authorities.

According to a police report, teammates alleged that Belles referenced hazing during team meetings and made statements like, "stop raping each other," and "don't do sexual things to each other." Belles also threatened to kick players off the team if they didn't stop the sex abuse.

James is accused of failing to report the incidents to officials after being contacted by parents who told him about a sexual assault involving student athletes.

The Chandler School District says they launched an investigation in Feb. 2017 after being made aware of the allegations. 

Nathaniel Thomas, 17, a former student and football player, is facing three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of molestation and one count of sexual abuse. 

Thomas is accused of sexually assaulting another player with a finger, prosecutors said. 

The recommended charges against current and former school employees come the same week it was revealed that families of the alleged victims have filed notices of claims against the Chandler Unified School District totaling $20 million.

In the three notice of claims, two families are seeking $7 million, and one family is requesting $6 million for compensatory damages. Dan Raynak is the attorney representing the families. He says the coaching staff and school new about the alleged sexual assaults.