Chandler school district attorneys say they have video that shows Hamilton High School (Chandler, Arizona) football players contradicting their own claims that they were sexually assaulted by teammates, according to a court record.
Judge Susan Bolton of the U.S. District Court for Arizona granted a motion Tuesday to allow the submission of the video evidence in a case brought by the players.
It is unknown what the video shows or when it was taken. It has not been made public.
The lawsuit against the school district, administration and coaching staff at Hamilton High School, parents and some students was filed in May 2018 on behalf of five students. The students claimed they were sexually, emotionally and physically abused by other members of the school’s football team and the school did not take the necessary actions to protect the students.
Three teenagers were charged. Two 16-year-olds were prosecuted as minors. One student who was 17 when he was arrested, Nathaniel Thomas, was charged as an adult. His trial is scheduled for August.
The victims’ allegations
According to the lawsuit, the victims were held down by teammates and forced to endure sexual and physical abuse. Some of the acts were recorded and posted on social media accounts.
The victims claim that they were freshmen at the time of the abuse and the acts occurred when they were promoted to the varsity football team.
The lawsuit says that former principal Ken James, former athletic director Shawn Rustad and former head coach Steve Belles conspired to not report the sexual abuse allegations to police, did nothing to stop further abuse, didn’t punish the abusers and didn’t protect the victims.
The abuse, according to the lawsuit, happened between the school years of 2015 to 2017 by other players identified in the lawsuit as John Does.
The lawsuit also names Rustad’s and Belles’ wives; former assistant coach Manuel Palomarez and his wife; the Chandler Unified School District and Hamilton High School.
The lawsuit alleges that administration failed to take action to protect the students or investigate allegations, even after numerous complaints. It claims that Belles told players “not to ‘do sexual things to each other.'”
The lawsuit claims that Rustad received a voice mail message about allegations of abuse but did not report it to authorities.
A request for summary judgment
Daniel Raynak, the victims’ lawyer, asked the judge for a summary judgment in May.
He stated in court records, “There is no factual dispute that these five plaintiffs were sexually assaulted. The only issue is whether the named defendants who are alleged to have participated in the assaults were involved.”
The defense’s motion to submit the video was made after the summary judgment request.
During depositions, some defendants said they did not know of anything to dispute the victims’ claims.
In his deposition, James was asked if he received any information from his attorney or another source that could cast doubt on the victims’ credibility.
“I haven’t received information one way or the other,” said James, according to records.
No criminal charges against adults
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office chose to not press charges against school administrators even though police said there was evidence of them failing to report the abuse.
County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in February 2018 that not enough victims came forward to make a strong case against the former principal, former athletic director and former head football coach.