School Board Places Accused on Leave
STEUBENVILLE – Three of the four people indicted Monday for their alleged involvement in the handling of the Steubenville rape case were put on paid administrative leave by the Steubenville Board of Education.
That action followed the announcement by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine that the work of a special Jefferson County grand jury hearing evidence in connection with the 2012 rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville ended with Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Michael McVey facing three felony charges and three other school employees charged with a laundry list of misdemeanors.
McVey, 50, faces three felony counts, including one charge of tampering with evidence and two counts of obstructing justice. He also is charged with making a false statement and obstructing official business, both misdemeanors. If convicted of all counts, McVey could face up to five years and 270 days in prison.
The grand jury also indicted West Elementary School Principal Lynnett Gorman, 40, and wrestling coach Seth Fluharty, 26, both of whom are charged with misdemeanor failure to report child abuse. They are facing up to 30 days in jail.
Matthew Belardine, 26, a former volunteer football coach, is charged with misdemeanor offenses of allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, making a false statement and contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child. Conviction of those charges could result in up to one year and 165 day in jail.
All four officials have been served notice to appear in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court for a hearing on Dec. 6.
Belardine, whose house authorities said was the scene of the underage drinking party that preceded the rape last summer, will plead innocent, said Columbus lawyer Brian Duncan. Gorman’s attorney, Stephen LaMatrice, said Gorman will plead not guilty and the charge isn’t connected to the football players’ case, but declined to elaborate. Columbus attorney Tom Tyack said he had been contacted to represent Fluharty but could not comment.
At an emergency meeting Monday, the Steubenville Board of Education voted to place McVey, Gorman and Fluharty on paid administrative leave. The board also named Richard Ranallo acting superintendent for the district.
Meanwhile, DeWine said the special jury has completed its work after hearing from 123 witnesses.
“The grand jury worked hard and sacrificed a great deal while doing this very tough work,” he said. “Their work is done. They are holding people accountable.”
DeWine said people involved in the case made bad decisions, committed violent acts and then used their cell phones to record them.
“Barring any new information, the investigation is over,” he said. “It is time for the community to move on.”
Asked if he felt justice has been served with the latest indictments totalling seven misdemeanors and three felonies, DeWine said, “The grand jury matched the allegations with the Ohio Revised Code descriptions of the offenses.”
This brings the number of individuals indicted by the grand jury to six after two students were convicted of rape. A school technology director and his daughter were indicted in October.
In March, Steubenville High School football players Ma’lik Richmond and Trenton Mays were convicted of the rape, which authorities said took place at a party in August 2012. Photos and videos of the incident made their way onto social media and attracted national attention.
Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile correctional facility. Mays was sentenced to two years.
The special grand jury then began investigating whether others should be charged. In October, it indicted William Rhinaman, 53, of Mingo Junction, the director of technology for Steubenville City Schools, on charges of tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, obstructing official business and perjury. His conviction could lead to four years in prison.
His daughter, Hannah Rhinaman, 20, also of Mingo Junction, was also indicted that month on two counts of receiving stolen property and one count of grand theft.
The 14-member grand jury has been sifting through information for weeks. The grand jury first met in early May.
Allegations of a cover-up dogged the case, despite charges brought against the boys shortly after the attack. Three teens who saw the attacks were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.