Steubenville, Ohio is now officially ready to move on from last year’s infamous teen rape case, in which a 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by two high school football players. Or at least that’s the message from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, even though half the school officials indicted this week are charged with failing to report another alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl.
After Steubenville High School football players Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays were convicted in March of raping a 16-year-old West Virginia girl after a drunken party in August 2012, DeWine assembled a grand jury to review whether additional crimes were committed. It met 18 times and heard from 123 witnesses. This week, the jury indicted four school officials, including Steubenville City Schools superintendent Mike McVey, who was charged with multiple felonies for obstructing justice.
A volunteer football coach was also indicted, on several misdemeanor charges, including providing alcohol to minors, along with a strength coach and elementary school principal who were both charged with one count regarding Reporting Child Abuse or Neglect, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
The indicted employees were immediately placed on administrative leave and are due in court December 6. Two others -- the Steubenville schools' information technology director and his daughter -- were also indicted by the grand jury last month, the latter on charges unrelated to the rape case. Both pleaded not guilty.
DeWine told reporters yesterday it was unlikely there would be more charges and that it was time for Steubenville to seek closure.
“This community has suffered a great deal. I know they desperately need to be able to put this matter behind them,” he said. “All of us, no matter where we live, owe it to each other to be better neighbors, classmates, friends, citizens.
“We must treat rape and sexual assault as the serious crime of violence that is. When it’s investigated, everyone has an obligation to help find the truth — not hide the truth, not tamper with the truth, not obstruct the trust, and not destroy the truth.”
The statement is less measured that it appears, given that half the new charges are related to a separate matter: the reported rape of a 14-year-old girl in April 2012, many months before the nationally publicized case that hit the headlines.
McVey’s charges include a misdemeanor charge, alleging he made a false statement in April 2012. Gorman’s charge of failing to report possible child abuse is also from April. The Attorney General’s office confirmed that both charges were related to the alleged April rape but declined to comment on how or whether the cases of the 16-year-old and the 14-year-old were related.
Bob Fitzsimmons, the lawyer who represented “Jane Doe” in the nationally publicized case that landed Richmond and Mays in juvenile prison for at least a year, confirmed to Newsweek that he also represents the younger girl, whose family hasn’t filed charges. He declined to comment further.
The original April 2012 incident did receive some local news coverage, but not until the fall, when “those searching the Internet after the rape allegations surfaced in August also unearthed a months-old conversation among Steubenville baseball players and wrestlers about a possible April attack involving a 14-year-old student," as the Cleveland Dealer reported in September 2012. According to the paper, the girl’s family didn’t file a police report until she read that “conversation” online.
Multiple sources in Steubenville, who would only speak off the record, said the alleged sexual assault also involved Steubenville High School athletes and took place at a team coach’s house.
Yesterday’s official news release said the new charges were “regarding the Steubenville teen rape case” -- in the singular -- and, despite repeated requests from this reporter, the Attorney General’s office won’t speak on the record about any possible connection between the two incidents.
Alexandria Goddard, the legal consultant widely credited with bringing the August 2012 case to light, has covered the case of the 14-year-old on her blog, Prinnifed, including screencaps of teenagers allegedly referring to the assault (Example: “It wasn’t rape they were just making love!!!”). She told Newsweek the case has probably been further obfuscated because locals were divided on whether it was “truly consensual,” even though the legal age of consensual sex in Ohio is 16 and the purported victim just 14.
Others said the girl may have been pressured to keep quiet. At the time, Steubenville area radio host David Bloomquist, known as "Bloomdaddy,” said he thought the 14-year-old was making it up. "I guess the best way to sum up what I'm saying is this: It's easier to tell your parents you were raped than, 'Hey mom or dad, I got drunk and decided to let three guys have their way with me.'" he said.
"It's time to let Steubenville move on," Attorney general DeWine said yesterday after announcing the final four indictments. The grand jury is clearly eager to do so. But it will take more than definitive proclamations of closure to change the way people -- both in Steubenville and across the country -- talk about sexual assault and consent.