Steubenville case: Four more charged, including superintendent, volunteer coach


Four school employees, including the superintendent and an assistant football coach, were indicted by a grand jury investigating a possible coverup in the Steubenville rape case.

The charges were announced Monday by the state's top prosecutor, who decried "blurred, stretched and distorted boundaries of right and wrong" by students and grown-ups alike.

"How do you hold kids accountable if you don’t hold the adults accountable?" Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine asked.

Superintendent Michael McVey, 50, was charged with tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice in the aftermath of the incident at the center of the case: the sexual assault of a drunken 16-year-old girl by two high school football players after a booze-fueled party in August 2012.

An assistant coach, Matthew Belardine, 26, was charged with allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business and making a false statement.

Two school employees, strength coach Seth Fluharty, 26, and elementary-school principal Lynnett Gorman, 40, were charged with failure to report child abuse.

The indictment did not contain details of what each person allegedly did.

“What you have is people who were not worried about a victim. They were worried about other things," DeWine said.

"People made bad choices and the grand jury said there are repercussions."

A small city of 19,000 about 40 miles from Pittsburgh, Steubenville and its high-school football team, Big Red, became the center of a firestorm last year after the rape allegations surfaced.

Though charges were brought against two players, activists questioned why more people weren't charged — including other students who sent photos, videos of texts about the assault, or adults who may have known about it but didn't report it.

After Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were convicted of rape and sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison in March, a grand jury was convened to determine if anyone else broke any laws.

Harding Stadium, home of the Steubenville High Big Red football team. Jason Cohn / Reuters file

It met 18 times and heard from 123 witnesses, ultimately issuing six indictments.

Last month, it charged William Rhinaman, 53, the Steubenville schools' technology director, with tampering with evidence and obstructing justice. His 20-year-old daughter, Hannah, was charged with a theft unrelated to the rape case.

On Friday, the grand jury issued the rest of the indictments, which were filed Monday — marking the end of the probe, according to the attorney general.

“Some may ask why others were not indicted,” DeWine said, explaining that a grand jury must find probable cause to charge someone with a crime.

“It is simply not sufficient that person’s behavior was reprehensible, disgusting, mean-spirited, or just plain stupid,” he said.

“Barring any new evidence, I believe that the grand jury’s work is done.”

The victim's lawyer said he was satisfied with the outcome.

"We're happy that there has been a full and complete investigation," said the attorney, Bob Fitzsimmons. "That they went to the highest level in the school system and filed felony charges does demonstrate to me that they were very thorough."

He said the teen, who testified at Mays and Richmond's trial, is "doing exceptionally well for what she has been through."

"She is in school full-time. She's an honor roll student. She participated in a teen sport this year," Fitzsimmons said. "She still receives counseling and I'm sure she has some low moments in her life but she and the family have done an admirable job."

As he announced the charges, DeWine took particular aim at the role of social media in the case, saying that technology has created "an electronic barrier that divorces us from shame."

But he said the "culture of anything goes" went beyond Facebook and Twitter.

"It's also about the underage drinking and the sex and the lying and the disrespect," he said.

"All too often parents have put on blinders. They allow their kids to have phones and cars and and let them have these parties —and all the while, the lines of appropriate behavior simply get blurred.

"It is up to the adults to intervene. It's up to the adults to change things. It's up to the adults to set boundaries. It's up to the adults to teach the kids right from wrong."

It was unclear if any of those charged Monday have attorneys, and attempts to reach them by phone were unsuccessful. They are due in court Dec. 6.

McVey faces the most serious charges, including two felonies, and could get up to seven years in prison if convicted of all charges. Belardine, who is charged with four misdemeanors, would face a year and nine months in prison if convicted. Fluharty and Gorman would only face up to 30 days.

DeWine said that small city of Steubenville had been traumatized and that many good citizens and student athletes had been unfairly "maligned."

"This community has been torn apart by the actions and decisions not of the many but of the few," he said.

"It's time to let Steubenville move on."