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Published: Thursday, 1/9/2014

STEUBENVILLE, OHIO

School official avoids trial in last-second deal

Failure to report abuse alleged

BY TORSTEN OVE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — A school principal charged with failure to report suspected child abuse in the wake of two Steubenville rape investigations won’t be prosecuted if she does community service work.

Ohio prosecutors on Wednesday agreed to drop the misdemeanor charge against Lynnett Gorman, principal of West Elementary School, by June 1 if she complies.

Ms. Gorman, one of five adults indicted in the aftermath of the rape convictions of high school football players Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, was to go to trial Wednesday.

The Ohio attorney general’s office said she failed to report suspected child abuse in regard to the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl by a group of baseball players in April, 2012, four months before the Richmond and Mays case.

Her lawyer, Dennis McNamara, cut the deal with prosecutors at the last minute. The trial was expected to last a day, with the attorney general’s office listing nine potential witnesses.

“Lynnett Gorman believes that she committed no crime,” the parties said in the agreement, approved by Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove. “She also believes that if she had the ability to go back to April, 2012, she would have acted differently. School teachers and administrators should always err on the side of caution when the interests of the children are at stake.”

Under the terms of the deal, Ms. Gorman has to complete 40 hours of community service and speak to teachers and administrators about recognizing child abuse.

The agreement also said Ms. Gorman has encouraged the school board to invite a representative from the Ohio Alliance Against Sexual Violence to speak at the middle school and high school in April.

Mr. McNamara would not discuss the resolution, saying the attorney general’s office and he had agreed to make no comment.

In a statement, Attorney General Mike DeWine said the resolution was in the “best interests” of Steubenville, which has endured worldwide media scrutiny.

“The reality is that because the charge was a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and she has no prior record, had this case gone to trial, the most that could possibly come out of this is that she would have been sentenced to a short amount of jail time, with no acknowledgement that she did things wrong and no ability to move forward,” Mr. DeWine said. “We want to change the culture. This is about the long-term healing of the community.”

Ms. Gorman initially had been suspended with pay after she was indicted in November, but the school board later let her return to work.

Four others, including Superintendent Mike McVey, remain under indictment, but no trial dates have been set.

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

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



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