Probe Alleged Intimidation

Attempting to intimidate witnesses in a criminal case threatens the very foundation of justice. Prosecuting attorneys and judges should come down hard on anyone engaging in it, regardless of which side they are taking.

Allegations of intimidation were made Monday during a court hearing for Michael McVey, the Steubenville City Schools superintendent placed on leave after a grand jury indicted him. McVey is accused of obstructing justice and evidence tampering and falsification.

Charges were returned as part of the investigation into the August 2012 rape of a girl by two high school students. Several others, including the students, already have been sentenced.

But charges against McVey apparently involve at least one other situation. The indictment accuses him of criminal acts between April 2012 and November 2013.

During a motion hearing Monday, both McVey’s attorney and Assistant Ohio Attorney General Angela Canepa said witness intimidation has occurred. Canepa told the judge some witnesses have been told, “You are either for us or against us.”

Berating a witness is one thing. Doing so in a manner the person feels is threatening is another matter. Again, by influencing a witness not to testify openly and honestly, it can involve a miscarriage of justice.

That is why witness intimidation is a crime – punishment of which ought to be considered a top priority by judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

It can be difficult to prosecute those who threaten witnesses because of the difficulty in proving the charge.

Emotions have run high – and continue to do so – in the so-called “Steubenville rape case.” That is no excuse.

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office probably is preoccupied with concluding cases against people already charged. But DeWine should investigate the witness intimidation allegations, too. If there is evidence they are true, charges should be filed against those responsible.