Ohio AG: Steubenville school superintendent, two coaches and principal charged in rape case inquiry
12:11 PM, Nov 25, 2013
6:49 PM, Nov 25, 2013
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - An Ohio school superintendent and two coaches were charged Monday with lying or failing to report possible child abuse after an investigation prompted by the rape of a nearly passed-out 16-year-old girl by two high school football players.
A grand jury investigation undertaken after the conviction of two members of the celebrated Steubenville High School football team charged four more people Monday, including a school principal. The indictments don't detail the allegations and the attorney general's office wouldn't elaborate, though it did say the panel's investigation included both crimes committed in connection with the football players' case and an alleged rape in April 2012 that was reported to police in September 2012.
The players' case caused a broad uproar after cellphone video of the attack was posted online, drawing intense criticism of prosecutors that more players should have been charged. One video made within hours of the August 2012 attack showed a former Steubenville student joking about the victim and the assault.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine convened the grand jury to look into the behavior of school administrators and other adults in the community after the two players were convicted last March. Under the law, educators are required to report allegations of child abuse.
Those charged Monday were Steubenville Superintendent Mike McVey, strength coach Seth Fluharty, volunteer football coach Matthew Belardine and elementary school principal Lynnett Gorman.
McVey's charges include felony counts of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor charge alleging he made a false statement in April 2012. McVey wasn't immediately available for comment, and a message was left for his attorney.
Belardine, whose house was the scene of the underage drinking party that preceded the rape last summer, faces several misdemeanor charges, including making a false statement and contributing to underage alcohol consumption. Belardine's father, Tim, said his son wasn't commenting immediately while he worked out legal representation.
Fluharty was charged with failing to report possible child abuse in August 2012. Columbus attorney Tom Tyack said he had been contacted to represent Fluharty but could not comment.
Gorman is charged with failing to report possible child abuse in April 2012. Her attorney, Stephen LaMatrice, said she will plead not guilty and the charge isn't connected to the football players' case, but declined to elaborate.
DeWine announced the grand jury's creation March 17, the day a judge convicted Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays of digitally penetrating a West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party that followed a team scrimmage.
It earlier charged the Steubenville schools' information technology director with tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury. The panel also indicted that man's daughter on theft and receiving stolen property charges unrelated to the rape case. Both pleaded not guilty.
DeWine said he believes the grand jury's work is done, barring any new evidence, and acknowledged people may wonder why still others weren't charged.
"It is simply not sufficient that a person's behavior was reprehensible, disgusting, mean-spirited or just plain stupid," DeWine said.
A group of about a dozen Steubenville High School students spent their lunch break at the curb outside the scene of DeWine's news conference, chanting the school's "Big Red" cheers at passing cars: "We love Big Red, yes we do. We love Big Red, how 'bout you?"'
The students said they were expressing their support for their school, not any party involved in the investigation.
Big Red football is a big deal in the economically depressed city of about 18,000, a former steel town that shed thousands of jobs in past decades.
Michael Moore, 21, who had attended the school, said it was disturbing to hear the investigation reached the upper levels of the community's educational leadership.
"These are people we are supposed to look up to," said Moore, 21. "They can't be doing stuff like that."
The crime shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online. In fact, the case came to light via a barrage of morning-after text messages, social media posts and online photos and video.
Hacker activists helped propel coverage of the rape case and press allegations of a cover-up.
Richmond, 17, was convicted of rape and sentenced to a year in the juvenile prison system. Mays, also 17, was convicted of rape and of using his phone to take a picture of the girl naked and sentenced to two years in juvenile detention.
Associated Press writers Kantele Franko, Mitch Stacy and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.