Conference held on Steubenville defendants

STEUBENVILLE – A telephone conference was held Friday between attorneys with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and lawyers representing defendants indicted by a special grand jury investigating aspects of the Steubenville rape case.

The special grand jury held periodic sessions beginning in April to investigate if additional crimes were committed following the August 2012 Steubenville rape case that saw two Steubenville High School students convicted of the rape of a teenage Weirton girl.

A status conference is scheduled for March 4 for Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Mike McVey. McVey was named in a five-count indictment charging one count of tampering with evidence, two counts of obstructing justice, both felonies, and two misdemeanors, including one count of falsification and one count of obstructing official business.

The indictment claims McVey allegedly committed crimes starting on April 5, 2012.

Visiting Summit County retired Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove at the status conference may set a trial date, unless both the prosecution and defense have worked out an agreement on a plea.

William Rhinaman, the former director of technology for the Steubenville City School District and the first person indicted by the special grand jury, will have a pretrial hearing in his case on April 7, at which time a trial date also may be set by Cosgrove.

Rhinaman was indicted on charges of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury.

Rhinaman was charged with tampering with evidence by altering, destroying, concealing or removing evidence from Aug. 11, 2012, to April 25, 2013, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Rhinaman also is charged with attempting to stop the prosecution of another person by either concealing or destroying evidence and getting the person to withhold information or communicating false information from April 8 to Oct. 4.

The third count charges Rhinaman with obstructing official business from April 8 until Oct. 4.

The perjury charge claims Rhinaman made a false statement under oath to the special grand jury during a July 8 proceeding.

Rhinaman’s daughter, Hannah Rhinaman, is scheduled to enter a plea at 11 a.m. on Feb. 19 and enter a diversion program.

She was named in a three-count indictment on Oct. 23 charging her with two counts of receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony, and one count of grand theft, a fifth-degree felony.

According to a press release issued in October by the attorney general’s office, the charges against Hannah Rhinaman are related to incidents that occurred at Steubenville City Schools. However, the charges are separate and unrelated to the previous indictment issued against her father, William Rhinaman on Oct. 7, the press release stated.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Hannah Rhinaman was employed by the city school district for approximately one month in 2012.

“She took property from the school district and sold it,” DeWine said during an October telephone interview.

A status conference for Seth Fluharty, a wrestling and conditioning coach and teacher at Garfield East Elementary School, and Matthew Belardine, a former volunteer high school football coach, is scheduled for Feb. 11.

Fluharty was indicted on one misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse or neglect on Aug. 13.

Bellardine was indicted on four misdemeanor counts, including allowing an underage person to consume beer or liquor, obstructing official business, falsification and contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child.

Lynnette Gorman, the Pugliese West Elementary School principal, who also was indicted by the special grand jury, reached an agreement with the state attorney general’s office on Jan. 8 whereby the misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse or neglect will be dismissed by June if certain conditions are met.

Gorman must complete 40 hours of community service and speak to other teachers and administrators in the Steubenville School District on the subject of recognizing and reporting child abuse and child neglect.

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