Rape cover-up trial starts today in Steubenville

Principal first of 5 adults charged in Steubenville incident

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The first of five adults charged in the wake of two rape investigations in Steubenville goes to trial today on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse.

Lynnett Gorman, principal at West Elementary School, was supposed to be tried Tuesday, but the case was postponed because of the cold.

Eight jurors will hear the case this morning at 9 in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court; because the charge is a misdemeanor, eight jurors are seated instead of 12 for felonies.

The trial is expected to last a day and focus on Ms. Gorman's actions in regard to an alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by a group of Steubenville High School baseball players in April 2012.

The alleged incident occurred four months before the August rape of a 16-year-old girl by two football players, Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond, both of whom were convicted. Mr. Richmond was released from a juvenile detention center on Sunday. Mr. Mays remains in detention.

In the earlier case, no one was charged with rape and no suspects were ever named. But under Ohio law, school officials have an obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect, regardless of the outcome of any investigation.

The indictment against Ms. Gorman, whose husband is vice principal at the high school, says she failed to report child abuse on or about April 12, 2012, but it provides no other information.

Her lawyer, Dennis McNamara, is expected to argue that his client heard rumors of drinking and sexual activity at a party in early April, but that the extent of her involvement was asking whether her son had been there.

After being told he wasn't, Mr. McNamara said, she dropped the issue and never heard any details of what happened.

The attorney general's office has not revealed its evidence, but prosecutors have subpoenaed nine witnesses, including several agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and a bureau computer forensics specialist.

Also charged in connection with the April 2012 incident is superintendent Mike McVey, who is accused of obstructing justice, falsification and other crimes beginning on April 5, 2012, but the indictment contains no details.

Three others are awaiting trial.

Seth Fluharty, a wrestling coach, is accused of failing to report child abuse in regard to the August 2012 rape.

Former volunteer football coach Matt Belardine is charged with allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business and related offenses, also in regard to the August incident.

And William Rhinaman, the former director of technology, is charged with tampering with evidence, perjury and obstructing justice as well as a misdemeanor count of obstructing official business. The earliest date for his offenses is Aug. 11, 2012, the day the 16-year-old was assaulted.

After Mr. Richmond's release on Sunday, his lawyer, Walter Madison, released a statement that Mr. Richmond has "made the most of yet another unfortunate set of circumstances in his life."

While in detention, Mr. Madison said, "Ma'Lik has reflected, learned, matured and grown in many ways. He is a better, stronger person and looks forward to school, life, and spending time with family."

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.

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