Former N.K. basketball coach Thomas charged with sexual assault, child molestation

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Aaron Thomas, the former longtime North Kingstown High School boys’ basketball coach who has been accused of conducting body fat tests on nude students for many years, has been charged with felony second-degree child molestation and second-degree sexual assault, R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and North Kingstown Police Chief Patrick Flanagan announced Thursday.

The charges against Thomas, 55, come after the NKPD and the Attorney General’s Office investigated multiple sexual misconduct allegations from students that stemmed from Thomas’ administration of a “fat testing” program. Neronha and Flanagan said, as part of the investigation, interviews with more than 30 NKHS students who attended the school from the early 1990s through 2020 were conducted. Teachers, coaches, administrators and medical professionals were also questioned about the allegations against Thomas, Neronha and Flanagan said.

Thomas is alleged to have engaged in sexual contact with two victims. The child molestation count alleges that Thomas had sexual contact with a person younger than 14 between Sept. 1, 2000, and Feb. 22, 2002, Neronha and Flanagan said. The sexual assault count alleges that Thomas, Neronha and Flanagan said, engaged in sexual contact with a second victim “by force or coercion or while engaging in the medical treatment of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification or stimulation” between Sept. 1, 2019, and Feb. 22, 2020.

Thomas is scheduled to be arraigned in Washington County Superior Court on Aug. 19. Per Rhode Island law, Neronha and Flanagan said the statute of limitations for second degree sexual assault is three years, however, there is no statute of limitations for second degree child molestation.

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Former student-athletes in late February filed a complaint through their attorney with the R.I. Department of Education asking state officials to intervene on the investigation into Thomas. Tim Conlon, attorney for Burns & Levinson LLP, argued that the North Kingstown School Department and its administrators should be “held accountable” for an “utter lack of control” over Thomas.

Additionally, U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island Zachary Cunha’s office opened an investigation into the school department last month after student-athletes filed a complaint that the high school violated students’ civil rights by allowing Thomas to disrobe athletes for “fat tests” for two decades.

The controversy surrounding Thomas has also created significant fallout with the town’s administration. In March, North Kingstown School Superintendent Philip Auger, who was the 2019 Rhode Island Superintendent of the Year, resigned from his post.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.