Four charged including superintendent in Steubenville rape case



STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- The rape investigation that brought the national spotlight to Steubenville, Ohio, has ended with the indictments of the city's school superintendent and three others connected to the school district.

A special grand jury on Friday indicted superintendent Michael McVey, 50, along with a principal, a wrestling coach and a former assistant football coach on charges related to failing to report or hiding evidence of the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl by two football players after a drinking party in 2012. The charges were announced Monday.

While players Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond were convicted in March, observers had wondered whether others tied to the district and its powerful Big Red football team would be called to account.

Now, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, they have been.

"We must treat rape and sexual assault as the serious crimes" they are, he said in announcing the charges. "When it is investigated, everyone has the obligation to help find the truth, not hide, tamper or destroy the truth."

Charged along with Mr. McVey are Lynnett Gorman, 40, principal of West Elementary School; Seth Fluharty, 26, an assistant wrestling and strength coach at the high school and a special education teacher; and Matt Belardine, 26, a volunteer football coach whose house was the scene of the party on Aug. 11, 2012, attended by the victim and some 50 others.

Mr. McVey was charged with the most serious offenses of obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence, both felonies. He also was charged with falsification and obstructing official business, both misdemeanors.

Ms. Gorman was charged with one count of failure to report child abuse or neglect, as was Mr. Fluharty.

Mr. Belardine was charged with allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, falsification and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, all misdemeanors.

The four received summons on Friday and will appear in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Dec. 6 to be arraigned.

School district officials would not comment.

The facts supporting the allegations were not released.

Mr. DeWine said his office is bound by secrecy rules in grand jury cases, and he would not discuss the details of the indictments.

The same grand jury had previously indicted the district's technology director, William Rhinaman, 53, on charges of tampering with evidence. Mr. DeWine, however, would not say if his case is directly related to the charges against Mr. McVey.

The case has rocked the town of Steubenville, population 19,000, and its school district, with an enrollment of about 2,400.

The investigation generated intense scrutiny because of allegations of a cover-up by school officials and the fact that the events were documented on cell phones by those present and shared on social media.

Recovered texts and images allowed investigators to reconstruct the crime and build a prosecution.

But Mr. DeWine warned that social media has "blurred boundaries" of right and wrong. Sending texts and tweets "divorces us from shame," he said, and "removes a layer of accountability."

The trial revealed that other young party-goers sent texts and pictures about the assault or joked about it.

Some of those outraged by the case, such as the National Organization for Women and the hacker-activist group Anonymous, demanded that they also be charged.

Mr. DeWine said Monday that those who sent texts or took images acted stupidly, but the grand jury was unable to charge them with specific crimes under Ohio law.

He also said the case is a lesson in adult responsibility -- or the lack of it. What happened in Steubenville, he said, happens across America when teens and alcohol mix in the absence of supervision.

"How do you hold kids accountable if you don't hold the adults accountable?" he asked.

"All too often parents put on blinders" as to what children and young adults are doing, he said.

"It is up to the adults to intervene."

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-231-0132.


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510. First Published November 25, 2013 11:37 AM


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here