Steubenville school superintendent indicted for obstruction in teen rape case

A school superintendent has been indicted on charges of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence by a grand jury investigating the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, by two football players. Several other adults were indicted on lesser charges.

The state’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “How do you hold kids accountable if you don’t hold the adults accountable?”

The indictments stem from a case earlier this year when two Steubenville High School football players — members of a team that was held in great esteem by the community — were found guilty March 17 of raping a West Virginia girl. The case got national attention when it became publicly known that the rape had been documented via text messages and cellphone photos, but that nobody had stepped in to help the victim. The two teens, both 17, were found guilty and sentenced to juvenile detention, one for a year for the rape conviction, and another for two years after being convicted for the rape and for taking a picture of the naked victim on his cellphone.

On the same day a judge found the players guilty, a grand jury was convened to investigate what role adults played in the case, resulting in the indictment Monday of superintendent of Steubenville City Schools, Michael McVey, on felony counts of obstructing justice and tampering with evidence.

Two coaches and an elementary school principal were also indicted Monday but on lesser charges of failing to report child abuse or allowing underage drinking and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Charged earlier by the grand jury was the school district’s information technology director on charges of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury, the AP reported.

There have been repeated calls for the arrests of more football players, but that didn’t happen. It was also noted in this New York Times story that Monday’s indictments did not include Steubenville High’s football coach, Reno Saccoccia. The story says:

At the trial of his two convicted players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, a text message was read from Mr. Mays stating he had persuaded Mr. Saccoccia “to take care of it” and adding that his coach “was joking about it so I’m not that worried.”

….Earlier, seeming to anticipate the question, Mr. DeWine said: “Some may ask why others were not indicted. Under our system of justice the grand jury must have probable cause to believe all the elements of a criminal offense are present.”

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

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · November 25, 2013