STEUBENVILLE - The special grand jury is expected to hear about 10 days of evidence beginning on April 30 as to whether any laws were violated by persons surrounding the rape case involving two Steubenville High School student-athletes.
The special grand jury was quickly seated Monday morning after questioning by visiting retired Summit County judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court. A court official said 86 people showed up as prospective members of the grand jury. The grand jury has 14 members, nine of which will vote on whether any indictments will be returned. Of the nine, six are female and three are male. Four alternates, all males, were selected and will not participate in the voting of any indictments unless any of the nine are unable to remain seated on the panel.
Cosgrove dismissed six prospective members after they stated their employers would not compensate them if they were selected. One person, an assistant football coach at Indian Creek High School, was excused after he said he knows persons who may be called as grand jury witness, and he has formed an opinion that he can't set aside to sit as an impartial member of the grand jury.
Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville were found delinquent on March 17 by visiting Judge Tom Lipps of rape in connection with an incident involving an intoxicated underage girl Aug. 11-12. Mays also was found delinquent of a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material for having a picture of the 16-year-old victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone.
Immediately after Lipps' decision, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a special grand jury would be called to investigate whether other laws were broken in the case.
"The grand jury is a very good investigative tool as well as a very deliberative body," DeWine said. It will investigate everything that happened before and after the rape, he said.
Two prosecutors from the Ohio Assistant Attorney General's Office, Scott Longo and William F. Schenck, had no questions for the prospective members of the grand jury during the selection process.
Cosgrove told the prospective members of the grand jury that it requires courage to sit on the grand jury. She said it is the job of the grand jury to to determine whether indictments should or should not be returned.
Seven of the nine members of the grand jury need to vote as to whether there exists probable cause to bring an indictment. A regular jury in a criminal case must determine guilt based on beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher level of confidence a crime was committed. Cosgrove said the grand jury does not determine the guilt or innocence of a person
Cosgrove said the grand jury is considered an arm of common pleas court.
Schenck said the attorney general's office is "extremely sensitive" to the residents of Jefferson County for how the county is being perceived because of the case. He said it became obvious the community has been "tortured" because of the case.
He said he has been involved in the case since January, assisting law enforcement in determining if any other violations of state law occurred.
"Our goal is simple - let the people of this county do what is right," Schenck told the panel of prospective members of the grand jury. "This is not an agenda (of Dewine). Our agenda is not to indict people. We need to get to the truth and if there is a basis to charge other persons. I have confidence in the grand jury system. Our only interest is the truth, and, along with that, what is fair to the residents of the county. We are not interested in having a circus. We are not interested in violating anyone's rights. We are not interested in harassing and embarrassing people."
He said the grand jury will hear from law enforcement and fellow citizens. Schenck said he will allow members of the grand jury to ask questions during testimony. "There is no such thing as a stupid question."
Schenck said there may be 30 to 40 witnesses called. He said the grand jury will meet four days a week, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The grand jury is expected to determine if anyone should be indicted for failing to report of a crime. That could include Michael Nodianos, who is featured in a YouTube video, and football coaches at the high school. Coaches have a mandatory requirement under Ohio law to report any suspected cases of abuse.