Mon., 11:47am: Steubenville rape grand jury meets today

STEUBENVILLE – A special grand jury investigating if adults knew of a series of parties in August 2012 that ended with the rape of a teenage Weirton girl by two Steubenville High School students will reconvene Monday.

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, confirmed Friday afternoon the 14-member grand jury will convene again on Monday.

“The attorney general has stated he expects the grand jury will meet for a number of days,” Tierney said.

The special grand jury has been meeting since April to determine if adults such as coaches or school administrators knew of the rape allegation but failed to report it as required by state law.

William Rhinaman, the director of technology for Steubenville City Schools, was arrested on Oct. 7 at his Mingo Junction home after he was named in a four-count indictment.

DeWine said the secret indictment naming Rhinaman “is the first indictment issued by the special grand jury reviewing whether additional crimes were committed regarding the Steubenville teen rape case.”

The 53-year-old Rhinaman is facing several charges, including tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; obstructing justice, a fifth-degree felony; obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor; and perjury, a third-degree felony.

Rhinaman is set to appear before Summit County retired Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove Friday morning for a pre-trial hearing.

Cosgrove was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to oversee the special grand jury investigating the Steubenville rape case.

Rhinaman entered a not guilty plea during his Oct. 9 arraignment.

Steubenville attorney Stephen Lamatrice represented Rhinaman during the arraignment hearing but told the judge Rhinaman would need a court-appointed attorney or legal representation from the Ohio Public Defender’s Office for Friday’s pre-trial hearing.

“The court will look at the defendant’s financial assets and I will notify the Ohio Public Defenders Office and ask if they will provide representation. The court will consider all of this. If the defendant does not have the resources or cash, the court might consider appointing an attorney and require the defendant to repay Jefferson County after the case is over,” Cosgrove said.

The Steubenville Board of Education officially approved a paid leave of absence for Rhinaman during the monthly board meeting Wednesday.

According to a statement released by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Rhinaman who is also an adjunct professor in the graduate education department, “was placed on immediate administrative leave following news of his indictment. In such circumstances, it is Franciscan University’s standing practice to place individuals on administrative leave to allow them to focus on concerns external to their work for the university.”

“Mr. Rhinaman had taught computers in education on a part-time adjunct basis at the university since 2008. The university does not expect to be contacted by the authorities in this case since the issues have nothing to do with Mr. Rhinaman’s work at Franciscan University. The university would, however, fully cooperate should they request assistance with their investigation,” said the prepared statement.

“The grand jury work is not done and the panel will continue to meet. Our goal is to find the truth. Some investigations take time and this investigation is ongoing. I am not going to speculate on future indictments. That wouldn’t be fair. But the grand jury will continue meeting. This is certainly not the end of our investigation. The special grand jury will meet again this month and they could very well be in session for more than one day. Additional testimony will be taken and evidence will be examined,” DeWine said last week during a telephone interview.

Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays were convicted of rape earlier this year 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.

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

DeWine announced the grand jury on March 17, the same day a judge convicted the teens.

A key issue before the panel has been whether adults such as coaches or school administrators knew of the rape allegation but failed to report it as required by state law.

The grand jury has worked off and on since April 30. That day, investigators searched Steubenville High School, the Harding Stadium fieldhouse and the local school board offices where cell phones and computers were seized..

Investigators also searched Vestige Digital Investigations, a digital forensics storage company in Medina, in Northeast Ohio. The company’s connection to the case was unclear, and it has denied it’s the subject of a criminal investigation.