Hamilton High hazing allegations: Police recommend charges against former football coach, principal

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Former football coach Steve Belles (left) and current school principal Ken James could face charges in connection with allegations of hazing by the Hamilton High School football team. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and Facebook) Former football coach Steve Belles (left) and current school principal Ken James could face charges in connection with allegations of hazing by the Hamilton High School football team. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 and Facebook)
Nathaniel William Thomas, 17 (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) Nathaniel William Thomas, 17 (Source: Maricopa County Sheriff's Office)
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A former coach at a Chandler high school and the school's principal could be facing legal action in connection with a hazing incident in which three teens have already been charged.

Steve Belles was replaced as the head football coach at Hamilton High School in May in a move the Chandler Unified School District officials said was “not disciplinary in nature.”

Belles was reassigned in May after allegations of sexual assault surfaced against several of his players.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office confirmed on Monday that it had received a recommendation from the Chandler Police Department, but it has not yet reviewed the submission. Charging decisions are made by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.

“The submittal covers additional individuals linked to the on-going [sic] investigation of assaults at Hamilton High School involving the football program,” MCAO spokeswoman Amanda Jacinto said in an email response to our inquiry. “As in any criminal case, we will continue to partner with law enforcement to assess the reasonable likelihood of conviction in a charging decision. The investigation continues into conduct that is well beyond any legitimate activity involved in a football program. Anyone who was subjected to hazing activities at Hamilton High School [is] encouraged to notify the Chandler Police Department.”

"The recommendation of charges against Mr. Belles are related to allegations limited to the Hamilton High football program," district spokesman Terry Locke said in an email statement. "The District has removed Mr. Belles from any  football coaching duties for the 2017 school year.   However, Mr. Belles will remain in his duties as a teacher.  The District reiterates that the county attorney has not made the decision to file a charge against Mr. Belles, and that he is innocent until proven guilty under our country's system of justice."

"The District has taken significant remedial measures to address the safety of student-athletes, including addressing supervision in locker rooms, increasing dialogue relative to anti-hazing policies and behavioral expectations with coaches, student-athletes and parents, and creating training tools such as the hazing prevention video," Lock continued.

Belles might not be the only member of the school staff facing charges.

"The District has received word that a recommendation for charges against Principal Ken James has been submitted to the county attorney," according to Locke. "The District understands that the recommended charges relate to the state's mandatory reporting statute.  Mr. James will remain serving in his position as principal of Hamilton High School during the pendency of the county attorney's review of charges.  The District reiterates the presumption of innocence that applies to these circumstances, and has no further comment on the matter."

One 17-year-old Hamilton High School student, Nathaniel William Thomas, was charged as an adult. He pleaded not guilty.

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

In addition, two 16-year-olds were charged in juvenile court.

[READ MORE: 3 teens formally charged in Hamilton High School hazing incident (March 30)]

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

Police executed a search warrant at the school on June 1. Daniel Mejia, a public information officer for Chandler Police Department, said the case is still very active and that detectives were searching for records and documentation.

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Belles has won 5 state titles as coach at Hamilton Hight School, most recently in 2012.

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