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County attorney asks for other victims in Hamilton hazing case to step up

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PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is urging victims to come forward if they were involved in the Hamilton High School football hazing case, if they have not done so already.

Montgomery said he is asking for more victims to come forward in order to make sure an opportunity is not missed to file additional charges against three football players who were charged back in March.

“There are people out there who have additional information that I want to have” in order to “fairly assess” all the information and charges, Montgomery said.

Several Hamilton players have been under investigation after hazing allegations initially surfaced in late March. Six players were arrested but only three were charged by police.

One 17-year-old has been charged as an adult with sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault. Two 16-year-olds were charged as juveniles with kidnapping, aggravated assault and assault.

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The crimes were allegedly committed between September 2015 and January 2017 on school grounds, but police said they first learned of them in February.

But Montgomery said his office wants to hold off on submitting any additional charges or charging any more suspects because he believes any decision to charge would “affect a smaller universe of victims than the investigation leads me to believe exists.”

“It would also limit the scope of conduct that we’re reviewing to one fixed time. That could expand, just like I’m confident that if we had more people to come forward to assist, the number of victims would expand,” Montgomery said.

At least six victims have come forward so far in the hazing case, but Montgomery said he believes there may be more. The Maricopa County attorney said he also believes there could be more suspects, including both adults and children.

Montgomery urged victims to not be afraid of hurting the school’s football program by coming forward.

“There should be no shame with helping us address wrongdoing, just as there should be every point of pride in the accomplishments of that program by players who precede this and certainly on behalf of players who have nothing to do with this,” he said.

In addition to the football players, the Chandler Police Department also recommended charges against two former school officials: Ex-head coach Steve Belles and principal Ken James.

Belles and James both recommended by the police in late July to be charged with child abuse and duty to report child abuse, both of which are felonies. In September, police recommended that an additional charge of child abuse be added.

The additional charge came from a sixth victim that has disclosed a report of physical and sexual assault, according to Chandler Police.

Belles was reassigned by the district in April. James and Athletic Director Shawn Rustad, who was recommended to be charged with a felony for failing to report child abuse in July, were both reassigned to district jobs away from the Hamilton campus in September.

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