A grand jury in Steubenville, Ohio has indicted four people in the case of the rape of a 16-year-old girl from West Virginia. The defendants, including the school district’s superintendent Michael McVey, are accused of neglecting to alert law enforcement to the facts of the case, which provoked international outrage. Two football players, both 17, were found delinquent of rape in March.
McVey is charged with obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence, which are felonies. According to the indictment, other people are accused of misdemeanors: an elementary school principal, Lynnett Gorman, and a coach, Seth Fluharty, failed to report child abuse; another coach, Matthew Ballardine, faces charges including making false statements.
Another school official, William Rhinaman, had previously been charged with tampering with evidence. He pleaded not guilty.
Football is an important part of life in Steubenville, and activists originally drew attention to the case when they felt that authorities were moving too slowly against members of the high school team:
The crime shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online. In fact, the case came to light via a barrage of morning-after text messages, social media posts and online photos and video.
Big Red football is a big deal in the economically depressed city of about 18,000, a former steel town that shed thousands of jobs in past decades. The team’s football stadium, dubbed “Death Valley,” sits on a hill above Steubenville, and the team is a nine-time state champion, including back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. Flames erupt from the mouth of a stallion rearing over the stadium each time a touchdown is scored.
The team’s head coach, Reno Saccoccia, has not been indicted. Evidence in the rape trial of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who were later found delinquent, suggested that their coach may have known about the incident before the police:
Many had expected to hear something about the famed longtime coach because his name came up during trial testimony in March.
Testimony and text messages during the trial of two the athletes indicated that Saccoccia, referred to by “Big Red” football fans as “Coach Reno” was aware of the rape allegations shortly after they surfaced and before they were reported to police. The text messages read in court from Mays, who was 16 at the time, and a quarterback for the team indicated the coach was aware of the allegations. The text read: “I got Reno. He took care of it and shit ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court. Like he was joking about it so I’m not worried.”
If convicted on all counts, McVey could be sentenced to almost eight years in prison.