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Published: 12/14/2013 - Updated: 4 months ago

STEUBENVILLE SCHOOLS

Top official, 3 others plead not guilty in rape cases

BY TORSTEN OVE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — The city’s top school official and three others entered not-guilty pleas Friday to charges stemming from the August, 2012, rape of a teenage girl by football players and a second alleged assault on another teen girl four months earlier.

Suspended Superintendent Mike McVey, who faces felony counts of obstructing justice and evidence tampering, said nothing after his brief arraignment in a Jefferson County courtroom. His lawyer, Charles Bean, said his client will win and return to work as head of the 2,400-student district.

Mr. McVey was suspended along with two other district employees, elementary school Principal Lynnett Gorman and special education teacher and strength coach Seth Fluharty, after the indictments last month.

All remain free on bond.

“We are confident that we are going to prevail in these cases and prove they’re unfounded,” Mr. Bean said. “This was an investigation that went nine months and this is all they have?”

He also said he will oppose a gag order proposed by the attorney general’s office. The AG has been “holding news conferences and putting out all kinds of press releases,” he said, yet now wants to muzzle the defendants’ lawyers.

Mr. Fluharty and Ms. Gorman both waived appearances in court and entered written not-guilty pleas.

Former volunteer football coach Matt Belardine, whose house was the scene of the party that led to the August, 2012, rape, appeared and also pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Belardine, Mr. Fluharty, and Mr. McVey will all next appear in court Jan. 17 for a pretrial conference. Ms. Gorman is scheduled for a one-day trial Jan. 7.

A fifth defendant, William Rhinaman, the school’s retired director of technology, had been arraigned after his indictment in October and was scheduled for a pretrial conference Friday, but it was postponed because his lawyer was sick.

All the charges resulted from a special grand-jury probe of school officials’ responses to two unrelated incidents in April, 2012, and August, 2012.

Ms. Gorman is charged with failure to report possible child abuse in the April case, in which a 14-year-old girl said three high school baseball players raped her during a party at the home of the baseball coach. She didn’t report it until after the investigation into the August rape had begun, and no one was charged with rape.

At least some charges against Mr. McVey pertain to the April event, but the details have not been made public. In the August case, Mr. Fluharty is charged with failure to report child abuse. Mr. Belardine is charged with allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, and related offenses.

Mr. Rhinaman is charged with evidence tampering, obstructing justice, obstructing official business, and perjury.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Torsten Ove is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.



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