For the first time, we are hearing from a mother whose son is accused of sexually assaulting teammates at Hamilton High School. Six football players have said they were abused by teammates. Four students have been charged; Nate Thomas is the only one charged as an adult.
Surrounded by a group of supporters dressed in black, Thomas' mom, Felisha Gillespie, discussed the allegations against her son. She initially read a prepared statement in the front of the media.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Hamilton High Hazing Case]
"If you want justice, there is a high price and unfortunately, as a single mom, the ability to gather large amounts of funds at once has been a struggle," Gillespie said. Gillespie said she and her son just agreed to fire their attorney.
"Nathaniel and I agree to release our current attorney as of Sept. 29, due to lack of communication, lack of preparation, multiple delays," Gillespie read from her statement. She left quickly after the statement was read. A few minutes later, she answered questions from reporters.
"My son did not do this," Gillespie said. "My son did not do this. He is innocent."
She called this ordeal traumatizing and said her son is being treated as though he is guilty until proven innocent.
"This whole entire case frustrates me," Gillespie said. "The fact that my son was locked up and exposed to everything he's been exposed to for the past nine months frustrates me." She pointed to inconsistencies in the police reports. When asked to elaborate, her mom chimed in.
"The inconsistency is that Nate wasn’t the only one," her mom said.
"Mom, no, do not say anything else please," Gillespie said.
"If Nate was not the only one, that does not make someone innocent," our reporter Lindsey Reiser said.
"Nate's innocent," Gillespie said. "Nate's, not the only football player. Nate's not the only person in that locker room."
Just this week, a video posted on a Facebook page called Justice For Nate, claims to show one of the accusers recanting his story. But Thomas' supporters did not go as far as to say no hazing occurred.
[TIMELINE: Hamilton High School hazing scandal]
"He's being used as a scapegoat," said a supporter who was at Gillespie's side, but would not give her name.
"Who is he a scapegoat for?" we asked.
"That’s not for me to answer right now," she said.
"These kids have been abused sexually, and now they're facing bullying, intimidating and threats," said John Torgenson, an attorney for one of the alleged victims - but not the purported victim in the video.
"Recantation is very common, especially in sexual assault criminal cases, family cases, cases that are very intimate to the victim," said Torgenson. "The specifics of what he told detectives is [sic] going to be very hard for him to say that was all false."
The alleged victims have filed notices of claim against the Chandler Unified School District; that is the first step to a civil lawsuit.
A post on the Justice For Nate page shows pictures from those notices, with a caption, "What it’s been all about since the beginning. . . MONEY. Sorry, no coins will be made off the slandering of Nates name. #NotToday #TryAgain#HamiltonHazing #TheVideoSaysItAll #SeeLastPost."
We asked Torgenson about that allegation.
"You have those scales of justice and right now they're like this, because these clients went through horrible things, and so now we want to get those scales of justice back even," Torgenson said. "In our society, our civil justice, money is the way that we do it."
More stories on hazing investigation:
Additional charges recommended against ex-football coach, principal of Hamilton High Charge recommended against Hamilton High athletic director in hazing case Hamilton High hazing allegations: Police recommend charges against former football coach, principal Another victim's family plans to sue Chandler district in hazing case Night of unity for Hamilton High community 3 families of alleged hazing victims plan to sue Chandler school district for $20 million 4th family in Hamilton hazing case plans to sue Chandler school districtPolice ID 17-year-old suspect in Hamilton HS hazing investigation Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app
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