Ohio Attorney General DeWine hopes additional charges in rape case helps Stuebenville move forward

Grand jury charges principal, superintendent, coaches Nov. 25

by THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press Published:

Steubenville -- Long-anticipated charges against adults implicated in the aftermath of a 16-year-old girl's rape offer the community a chance to begin putting the case behind it, according to Ohio's attorney general.

A grand jury on Nov. 25 charged a school superintendent and three others with lying or failing to report possible child abuse after an investigation prompted by the rape of the West Virginia girl by two high school football players.

"This community is rectifying the problem. This community is taking charge. This community is fixing things. This community is holding people accountable," Attorney General Mike DeWine said Nov. 25. "That's what this grand jury did."

The investigation included crimes committed in connection with the case against two members of the celebrated Steubenville High School football team as well as a separate alleged rape that happened in April 2012, four months before the assault that drew nationwide attention over allegations that prosecutors should have charged more players.

Hacker activists helped propel coverage of the rape case and press allegations of a cover-up, including reposting of a 12-minute Internet video made within hours of the attacks in which a former Steubenville student joked about the victim.

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.

Two people had already been charged before Steubenville Superintendent Mike McVey, strength coach Seth Fluharty, volunteer football coach Matthew Belardine and elementary school principal Lynnett Gorman were charged Nov. 25.

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's attorney didn't immediately return messages.

Belardine, whose house authorities said 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 will plead not guilty, said Columbus attorney Brian Duncan.

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.

State law in Ohio requires a lengthy list of public and private workers -- including school administrators, teachers and employees -- to immediately report suspected cases of abuse or neglect.

DeWine announced the grand jury's creation March 17, the day a judge convicted Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays of digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party that followed a team scrimmage.

The grand jury 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's not necessarily a crime to be insensitive or to be mean-spirited, or just to be stupid," DeWine said.

Associated Press writers Kantele Franko, Mitch Stacy and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, and John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.

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