Indict Those Who Set Stage

With a special grand jury investigating last year’s rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville possibly wrapping up its work this week, the question on many minds is whether any adults will be indicted for involvement in the crime and its aftermath.

One consideration that needs to be kept in mind is this: Even grand juries, which do not establish guilt or innocence, need to have some evidence of a crime in order to return indictments. They cannot formally accuse people of wrongdoing without having at least some persuasive proof of involvement.

That said, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that an adult, or perhaps more than one, set the stage for what happened the night of Aug. 11, 2012.

What we know is this: That night, at least two parties during which alcohol was served to minors occurred in Steubenville. Two high school students, Trent Mays and Malik Richmond, were there, along with a 16-year-old Weirton girl. At some point, in a car and at a third house, the two sexually assaulted the girl. Both were sentenced to serve time in the juvenile detention system.

Both before and after the two were convicted, there were allegations some adults knew of the crime but did not report it to authorities. In addition to being morally repugnant, that is illegal.

For several months, a special grand jury has been looking into the allegations. This fall grand jurors indicted William Rhinaman, who had served as Steubenville City Schools technology director, on several charges including tampering with evidence and obstructing justice. Soon after that, Rhinaman’s daughter, Hannah, 20, was indicted on a charge of stealing from the school district. That accusation appears to be unrelated to the rape case.

Anticipation of additional indictments has been heightened by a comment from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, seeming to indicate grand jurors believe some witnesses have not been honest with them.

But again, whether anyone else is indicted in the alleged coverup is one thing – while bringing to justice adults who furnished juveniles with alcohol and places to drink it is another.

In all likelihood, the rape would not have occurred had the young people not been drinking that night. Let’s hope the grand jury has enough evidence to indict the adults who bear responsibility for that.