Special jury in rape case to meet on Friday

STEUBENVILLE – A special grand jury investigating whether other laws were broken in the Steubenville rape case is set to meet on Friday, according to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

The grand jury has hit the five-month mark without criminal charges.

Two Steubenville High School students, Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were convicted of rape in connection with an incident in August 2012. Mays also was found delinquent of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material for having a picture of the 16-year-old victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone.

Mays was sentenced to a minimum of two years in a Department of Youth Services facility. Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in a state youth detention center. Both juveniles were ruled to be Tier II sex offenders by visiting Judge Tom Lipps. Both are required to report to the county sheriff where they are living every six months for the next 20 years. Lipps can modify that decision at a later time. Richmond has filed an appeal of the sexual offender ruling.

The special grand jury has met 10 times since it was seated on April 15.

A chief issue before the 14-member panel is whether coaches, school administrators or other adults knew of the allegation but failed to report it as required by Ohio law.

DeWine announced the grand jury on March 17, the same day a judge convicted two teens of raping the Weirton girl after an alcohol-fueled party following a football scrimmage in August 2012.

Allegations of a cover-up dogged the case, despite charges brought against the boys shortly after the attack. Attention was fueled by online activists who said more football players should have been charged. Three teens who saw the attacks, including two players, were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.

The National Organization of Women has long called for DeWine to prosecute a fourth teen who cracked jokes about the rape in a video that implies he had direct knowledge of the assault. His attorney says he did not.

Grand juries operate by different rules and thresholds of guilt and face few deadlines other than statutes of limitations, said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh criminal law professor. Prosecutors, who run the panels, aren’t obliged to say how long grand juries will meet or make promises about its conclusions, Harris said.

“The bottom-line answer is that this could take as long as it takes,” Harris said.

A former Franklin County, Ohio, prosecutor, Mike Miller, agreed, saying lengthy deliberations are more common in investigative grand juries looking at particular cases. By contrast, many counties have grand juries that meet daily, weekly or monthly to consider charges in more routine prosecutions.

“I’m sure that for something that’s pretty far ranging, they’ll get every bit of information they can before the grand jury,” said Miller, a private practice attorney in Columbus.

DeWine has said he can’t give a timeline for when panel will finish its work. He said last month that forensic work involving cell phones and computers had yet to be completed.