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School superintendent, 3 others charged in Steubenville rape case

The Steubenville School Superintendent was among four adults charged by a grand jury that investigated the case of a 16-year-old West Virginia girl who was raped last year by football players at a party in Ohio.

The indictments, a mixture of felony and misdemeanor charges, were made by the grand jury last week and announced on Monday by Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine at a news conference televised from Steubenville. With the announcement, the grand jury has completed its investigation, he said.

“We must treat rape and sexual assault as the serious crimes they are,” DeWine said. “When it is investigated everyone has the obligation to held find the truth,” he continued, “not hide, tamper or destroy the truth.”

Steubenville City Schools Supt. Michael McVey faces the most serious charges, including felony counts of obstructing justice, DeWine said. Telephone calls to the school official’s office and home were not immediately returned. 

All the others face misdemeanor charges. Also charged were an elementary school principal and a coach who face misdemeanor charges of failing to report possible child abuse. A former volunteer coach faces several misdemeanor charges, including making false statements and contributing to a child's delinquency.

All four are to appear in court next month.

The special grand jury convened in Steubenville had investigated whether adults such as coaches or school administrators knew of the rape allegation but failed to report it. The grand jury was impaneled on March 17, the day a judge convicted two Steubenville high school football players of raping the West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party in August 2012.

High school football was one of the bright spots for the economically depressed city of Steubenville, and boosters take the team, known as Big Red, seriously -- so seriously, some activists charged, that officials were loath to tarnish the school name.

The initial investigation of the party, which took place after a football practice, was pushed by social media and calls for action by a host of groups including the National Organization for Women.

Eventually, two players were convicted by a judge. Ma'Lik Richmond, 17, was convicted of rape and sentenced to a year in the juvenile prison system. Trenton Mays, also 17, was convicted of rape and of using his phone to take a picture of the girl naked and sentenced to two years in juvenile detention.

The grand jury had earlier charged the Steubenville schools' information technology director with tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury. The panel also indicted that man's daughter on theft and receiving stolen property charges but noted the charges were unrelated to the rape case.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

McVey, 50, faces the most prison time if convicted of the charges announced on Monday. He could be sentenced to seven years and 270 days in prison if convicted of all five counts, including the three felony charges.

In the charges announced on Monday, Lynette Gorman, 40, the school principal, is charged with failure to report child abuse and could face 30 days if convicted. Also facing the same charge was Seth Fluharty, 26, described as an assistant wrestling coach and special education teacher.

The final indictment was against Matthew Belardine, 26, who faces charges including allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, falsification, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Belardine was identified as a former assistant high school football coach for Steubenville City Schools. If convicted on all counts, he could serve up to one year and 265 days in jail.

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