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Pursue Justice In Rape Case

March 8, 2013
The Intelligencer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

People who commit crimes ought to be arrested, prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished. The more heinous the crime, the more severe the penalty. That seems simple enough.

But the case against two Steubenville High School students accused of raping a Weirton girl has proved to be anything but simple. And what to do about others, probably also juveniles, who witnessed the alleged assaults, is even tougher to deal with.

Authorities in Jefferson County were accused of dragging their feet in the investigation, even engaging in a coverup, because the two boys were high school football players. To our knowledge, there is not a shred of evidence local authorities did not pursue the case vigorously.

Wisely, local officials asked Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine's office to take over the case. Now the attorney general is under pressure, too.

Critics of how the situation was handled have asked why people who witnessed the alleged assaults have not been charged with crimes. A college student who made vicious, crude comments about the victim in a video circulated on the Internet should be prosecuted, some have insisted.

A new twist in the case occurred a few days ago, when representatives of the National Organization for Women delivered to DeWine a petition bearing about 85,000 signatures. It demands the student featured in the video be charged with failure to report a crime.

DeWine has said more charges may be filed after court proceedings for the two alleged rapists are concluded. The reason why that much delay is necessary is too obvious to require explanation.

But the boy seen in the cruel video was not at the scene of the assaults, his attorney maintains. His major offense may have been depraved stupidity.

DeWine indeed should file additional charges against anyone found to have committed a crime in connection with the assaults, if they are proven in court. But how he proceeds should be based on the facts of the case, whether he believes convictions can be obtained - and yes, the ages of those involved.

In short, DeWine is right to have handled the case in a manner he hopes will ensure justice is done, and not in reaction to public opinion. He should adhere to that strategy.

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