Trial Set to Begin for 2017 Hazing, Sexual Assault Case

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A March 2017 sexual assault and hazing scandal will go to trial this month in Arizona.

Nathaniel Thomas, who was 17 years old at the time, was arrested alongside five teammates on the Hamilton High School football team, located in Chandler, Ariz. Thomas and two teammates were charged, while he has been out of jail on bond since. He will be back in court when the trial begins Jan. 28, according to Fox 10 in Phoenix.

“He’s scared, but he’s standing up for the point that he didn’t mean to hurt anybody,” Thomas’ attorney Robert McWhirter told Fox 10. “He didn’t rape anybody. This was locker room horseplay that was going on all the time. There’s no reason. It’s simply injustice singling him out like this.”

Thomas, who is accused of kidnapping, sexual assault and molestation, was the only individual charged as an adult. The 15-year-old and 16-year-old that were charged have settled their cases in juvenile court. Those two individuals, who went on to play college athletics according to McWhirter, have been subpoenaed to testify in Thomas’ trial alongside at least five victims.

Fox 10 acquired pre-trial reports that showed that Thomas, who wears an ankle monitor and is only allowed to leave his mother’s home for work, school or appointments, has been hospitalized twice for suicidal thoughts.

The victims filed a May 2018 lawsuit against the Chandler Unified School District and Hamilton employees, claiming negligence and emotional distress. The lawsuit was settled in November 2019, according to USA Today. A June 2019 USA Today article covered attorneys for the Chandler Unified School District claiming they had video that showed players contradicting claims that they were sexually assaulted by their teammates.

McWhirter believes that there was a severe lack of adult supervision, which led to the reassigning of Hamilton principal Ken James, athletic director Shawn Rustad and head football coach Steve Belles.

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