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Mother of suspect in Hamilton High hazing case speaks out publicly

Posted at 11:21 PM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-09 20:41:08-05

The Hamilton High School football sex abuse scandal took an interesting twist Wednesday after Nathaniel Thomas' mother claimed her son's innocence in a public statement.

Thomas is one of six Hamilton football players arrested and accused of crimes connected to the alleged assaults that took place in the locker room from 2015-2016. Thomas, however, remains the only suspect identified by name and charged as an adult. 

On Wednesday, Thomas' mother,FaliciaGillespie, tried to clear her son's name in the first interview she's given since his arrest. 

 "The fact that he is being treated guilty before being given the chance to prove his innocence — that frustrates me," Gillespie said. "My son did not do this. My son is innocent."

However, Gillespie also made several cryptic and unsubstantiated claims about her son's involvement. 

"We have determined that we need someone to come in and shed light to the many inconsistencies to this case," she said. "My son is being used as a scapegoat."

Gillespie wouldn't respond to questions about why she thinks her son is a scapegoat or which inconsistencies she sees in the case. She did, however, point to a Twitter video that she said shows one of the alleged victims recanting his accusations. 

The Twitter video shows a boy's chest and a disembodied female voice prompting with leading questions: 

Girl: "Did [Nathaniel Thomas] do it?"

Boy: "no." 

Girl:  "What did he not do?" 

Boy: "Whatever they said he did."  

It turns out, ABC15 verified the video and determined that it does show one of the actual victims. However, his attorney, Dan Raynak, said the confession is forced. 

"He's not recanting. He was threatened in order to make this video," said Raynak. "He was essentially forced to make this statement. It's not accurate and police are investigating is my understanding."

Raynak said that Thomas and his family were not involved in making the video.  

Chandler police have already recommended charges against former Hamilton Coach Steve Belles, former Principal Ken James and former Athletic Director Shawn Rustad. Police allege that the men all had varying levels of knowledge that the assaults were happening but didn't do enough to stop or report the abuse. 

Chandler Unified School District still employs all three men but has reassigned them away from the Hamilton campus.