New information in documents released in Hamilton hazing investigation

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New documents were released in connection the hazing investigation at Hamilton High School. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) New documents were released in connection the hazing investigation at Hamilton High School. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Nathaniel Thomas, who is being tried as an adult, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Nathaniel Thomas, who is being tried as an adult, has pleaded not guilty to the charges. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The district released two binders full of emails that were mostly from the media. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The district released two binders full of emails that were mostly from the media. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Two binders full of public documents released at the request of CBS 5 News and 3TV shed a little light into the hazing scandal that has rocked the Hamilton High School football program.

Three varsity football players have been charged with a number of crimes including sexual assault. One of the students, 17-year-old Nathaniel Thomas, is being tried in adult court.

[READ MORE: Hamilton HS football player pleads not guilty in hazing case]

Head Coach Steven Bells is assigned to his home on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

The key to what happens with Belles and any other school official comes down to what they knew and when they found out.

[READ MORE: Hamilton High School head coach reassigned amidst hazing investigation

The majority of the public records released were copies of emails from media to the district inquiring about the alleged hazing.

Among the non-media inquiries is an email that appears to be what brought the issue to light. It is dated Feb. 10, 2017. The sender's name was redacted from the email but it was sent to the Chandler Unified School District assistant superintendent and a Chandler police officer assigned to Hamilton as the school resource officer.

[READ MORE: Judge: Suspect in Hamilton HS hazing being released from jail]

The subject line reads, “Mandatory reporting of sexual harassment.” The sender identifies one of the potential victims and goes on to say that victim, a football player, told several other players he was sexually assaulted by a number of other varsity football players in the locker room as an initiation into the program. The writer of the email indicated that the alleged victim was specific in the sexual acts that were performed on him.

[GRAPHIC CONTENT: Email sent to CUSD officials about hazing allegations]

The documents also include an email dated Feb. 16, 2017, from what appears to be a parent of one of the victims. The parent disclosed to the teacher that the email is addressed to that their child was the victim of extreme hazing and that the athletic director talked to the player about it but no one ever contacted the parent. The parent ended the email by stating, “I am furious.”

The public records do not document anything about that alleged conversation between the athletic director and the player or indicate when it may have taken place.

[ORIGINAL STORY: 3 teens formally charged in Hamilton High School hazing incident]

But included in the records was an email from Athletic Director Shawn Rustad to Coach Belles encouraging him to remind his kids “how to behave.” That same email included links to article about hazing,

That email was dated Feb. 7, 2017, three days before the third party reported to police and district officials what that writer said he had been hearing from a handful of players about the victim’s allegations. 

[READ MORE: 3 teens formally charged in Hamilton High School hazing incident]

A spokesman for CUSD said the timing of that email could be just a coincidence. He reiterated that it would not be unusual for an athletic director to send that kind of a message to a coach.

He also added that if there was an indication that any school official knew what was going on and did not report it, the district would be taking action. 

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Donna RossiEmmy Award-winning reporter Donna Rossi joined CBS 5 News in September 1994.

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Donna Rossi

In that time, Donna has covered some of the most high-profile stories in the Valley and across the state. Donna's experience as a four-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department gives her a keen sense of crime and court stories. She offered gavel to gavel coverage of the 1999 sleepwalking murder trial of Scott Falater, and the trial and conviction of retired Catholic Bishop Thomas O'Brien for a fatal hit and run accident. She also spent 2 straight weeks in northeastern Arizona in the summer of 2011 covering the Wallow Fire, the largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Donna's reputation as a fair and accurate journalist has earned her the respect of her colleagues and community. Her talent as a reporter has earned her more than a dozen Arizona Associated Press Awards and five Emmy statue.

Donna previously worked as an anchor and reporter in Tucson and got her start in broadcast journalism in Flagstaff. Donna is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and currently serves on the NATAS board. She is a member of IFP/Phoenix, a non-profit organization of local film and documentary makers.

Donna was born in New York and moved to the Valley with her family when she was 9 years old. She is a graduate of Maryvale High School and attended Arizona State University. She graduated cum laude from Northern Arizona University.

In her free time, Donna enjoys boating on Bartlett Lake, all forms of music and theatre. Donna frequently donates her time to speak to community organizations and emcee their events. She is a past board member of DUET, a non-profit which helps promote health and well-being for older adults. Donna also loves donating her time to youth organizations and groups who work to secure and safeguard human rights.

On Oct. 17, 2015, Donna was honored for her amazing work over the years. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences inducted her into its Silver Circle. It's one of the organization's most prestigious honors for which only a few candidates are selected each year.

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