Hamilton High sex assault civil suit settled

Hamilton High School students have settled a federal lawsuit against Chandler Unified School District for a hazing incident involving the school’s football team.

Five unnamed students filed the suit last year after a criminal investigation uncovered a possible web of secrecy that was used to cover-up the hazing incidents.

On Monday, the plaintiffs met with defendants and agreed to settle the case against CUSD and its employees, court records show. 

A district spokesman said the settlement’s terms are confidential and cannot be disclosed.

Lawyers involved in the case did not respond to inquiries made by the East Valley Tribune.

The incident came to light in 2017 after the Chandler Police Department opened an investigation into allegations of sexual assault.

The case involved six freshman players who were allegedly pinned down in a locker room and sexually violated as part of a hazing ritual. The assaults allegedly took place over two school years, from 2015 to 2017.

The investigation ended with three students being charged – one as an adult and two in juvenile court – and the resignation of Steve Belles, the team’s head coach.

Hamilton’s former principal Ken James and Athletic Director Shawn Rusted were reassigned to new positions within the district.

Chandler Police recommended criminal charges against Belles, James and Rustad for failing to report sex crimes. But the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute them due to a lack of admissible evidence.

Belles, James, and Rusted were listed as defendants with CUSD in the civil suit that accused them all of negligence.

“None of them can dispute that the sexual assaults occurred as there was a concession that the locker room was not properly supervised, and there was not constant supervision,’’ the plaintiff’s lawyer wrote in court filings earlier this year.

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