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Published: Tuesday, 1/7/2014

Cold delays Steubenville principal’s abuse trial

BY TORSTEN OVE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — The first of five adults charged in the wake of two rape investigations in Steubenville will go on trial Wednesday.

Lynnett Gorman, principal at West Elementary School, was supposed to go to trial today on a charge of failure to report suspected child abuse, but the case was postponed because of the cold.

Court officials said they didn’t want to make the jurors, several of whom are elderly, venture out.

Eight jurors will hear the case starting at 9 a.m. in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court; because the charge is a misdemeanor, eight jurors are seated instead of the 12 for felony cases.

The trial is expected to last a day and focus on Ms. Gorman’s actions in regard to a reported rape of a 14-year-old girl by a group of Steubenville High School baseball players in April, 2012.

The alleged incident occurred four months before the August rape of a 16-year-old girl by two football players, Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond, both of whom were convicted.

In the earlier case, no one was charged with rape and no suspects were ever named. But under Ohio law, school officials have an obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect, regardless of the outcome of any investigation.

The indictment against Ms. Gorman, whose husband is vice principal at the high school, says she failed to report child abuse on or about April 12, 2012, but it provides no other information.

Her attorney, Dennis McNamara, is expected to argue that his client heard rumors of a party in early April at which drinking and sexual activity took place, but the extent of her involvement was asking whether her son had been there.

After being told he wasn’t, Mr. McNamara said, she dropped the matter and never heard any details of what happened.

The attorney general’s office has not revealed its evidence, but prosecutors have subpoenaed nine witnesses, including several agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and a bureau computer forensics specialist.

Also charged in connection with the April, 2012, incident is Superintendent Mike McVey, who is charged with obstructing justice, falsification, and other crimes beginning on April 5, 2012, but the indictment contains no details.

Three others are awaiting trial.

Seth Fluharty, a wrestling coach, is accused of failing to report child abuse in regard to the August, 2012, rape.

Former volunteer football coach Matt Belardine is charged with allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, and related offenses, also in regard to the August incident.

And William Rhinaman, the former director of technology, is charged with tampering with evidence, perjury, and obstructing justice as well as a misdemeanor count of obstructing official business. The earliest date for his offenses is Aug. 11, 2012, the day the 16-year-old was assaulted.

His daughter, Hannah, also was indicted on unrelated theft charges uncovered during the course of the grand jury probe.

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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