Four Ohio school officials were indicted Monday on charges that they obstructed an investigation of student athletes in the rape of a 16-year-old girl last year.
Steubenville City School Superintendent Michael McVey, the principal of an elementary school, a football coach and a wrestling coach are due in court on Dec. 6.
A grand jury investigating how school officials handled the investigation of the rape indicted McVey on five counts of tampering with evidence, obstruction and falsification.
The grand jury looked into whether adults such as teachers or coaches knew of the rape but failed to report it as required by state law.
“People made bad choices,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “This grand jury says there has to be accountability.
“What you have here is an attempt to protect an institution or protect someone when what should have happened is the person doing that should have been worrying about the actual victim,” he said. “People were not worried about the victim.”
Also indicted were:
- Michael Belardine, 26, a volunteer football coach at the time of the rape. The grand jury indicted Belardine on charges of allowing underage drinking, obstruction, falsification and contributing to unruliness.
- Lynnett Gorman, 40, a principal at a Steubenville elementary school who was indicted on a charge of failure to report child abuse or neglect.
- Seth Fluharty, 26, a special education teacher and wrestling coach. He was indicted on a charge of failure to report child abuse or neglect.
McVey, 50, could not be reached for comment.
DeWine said he believes the grand jury’s work is done and no more indictments are expected. He says the panel, which began its work on April 15, met 18 times and heard from 123 witnesses.
The four indictments follow the grand jury’s indictment in October of the district’s information technology director on a charge of 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.
In March, two teens were found delinquent — the equivalent of guilty in adult court — in the rape of the 16-year-old West Virginia girl at a party in August 2012. The teens were members of the high school’s football team.
Ma’Lik Richmond, 17, was convicted of rape and sentenced to a year in the juvenile prison system. Trenton Mays, also 17, was convicted of rape and of using his phone to take a picture of the girl naked; he was sentenced to two years in juvenile detention.
The case has been marked by allegations that more football players should have been charged and that police and prosecutors tried to cover up aspects of the case. Authorities counter that the two teens were arrested and charged within days of the attack.
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. The team’s football stadium, dubbed “Death Valley,” sits on a hill above Steubenville, and the team is a nine-time state champion, including back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. Flames erupt from the mouth of a stallion rearing over the stadium each time a touchdown is scored.
Hacker activists helped propel coverage of the rape case and press allegations of a cover-up, including their reposting of a 12-minute Internet video made within hours of the attacks in which Michael Nodianos, a former Steubenville student, jokes about the victim and the attacks. The National Organization of Women had called on DeWine to charge Nodianos with failure to report a crime, while Nodianos’ attorney says he had no firsthand knowledge of the attacks.
The owners of the house where that video was made were among those interviewed by investigators.
Courtesy of USA Today