Agents search school computers
STEUBENVILLE – Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents are expected to continue analyzing electronic evidence taken from several Steubenville City School District computers Thursday afternoon.
The BCI agents, assisted by Steubenville police and Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies, met Thursday afternoon before serving search warrants at the board of education offices, Steubenville High School and the Harding Stadium fieldhouse.
The search is related to the rape of an underage girl last year by two high school football players who were convicted in the case. A grand jury was called by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to determine if more people were involved in the incident.
Telephone messages left for Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Mike McVey were not returned.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla and Steubenville police Chief Bill McCafferty declined comment about the raids and referred questions to the BCI.
Search warrants also were used to obtain electronic evidence from Vestige Limited of Medina. The company’s website describes the firm as “electronics evidence experts.”
According to the website, the company’s vision is “to be the leading provider of computer forensic services for the use in civil litigation, law enforcement, criminal proceedings and corporate policy administration. We are founded on the principals of honesty, integrity, professionalism, and the quest to become the undisputed experts on the subject of computer forensics and electronic discovery for the legal community.”
A telephone message left on the company’s answering machine Friday was not returned.
Attorney General Michael DeWine said in a telephone interview with the Herald-Star that “the search warrants are in conjunction with the special grand jury investigation in Steubenville.”
“The grand jury is to determine if other crimes were committed in connection with the rape of the 16-year-old Weirton girl last August. Phase one of this case was the juvenile court trial that saw two young men found guilty of rape. Phase two will be the investigation to determine if any other crimes were committed. We are looking at every aspect of this case. I hope people will believe when we’re done we did everything we could to find the truth and that justice was done,” said DeWine.
Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville were found delinquent by visiting Judge Tom Lipps of rape in connection with an incident involving an intoxicated underage girl on Aug. 11-12. Mays also was found delinquent of a charge 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.
Immediately after Lipps’ decision, DeWine announced the special grand jury would be called to investigate whether other laws were broken in the case.
“Grand jury proceedings are secret so the public should not expect any reports from the grand jury until their work is done. Once the grand jury starts meeting Tuesday it is going to be pretty quiet. I expect the grand jury to meet three or four days a week until the investigation is done,” said DeWine.
He said he did not want to speculate how long the grand jury proceedings will take.
DeWine also declined to discuss what the BCI agents were looking for during the search warrant execution.
And while he would not say who signed the search warrants and ordered documents associated with the search to be sealed, DeWine said it is logical for visiting retired Summit County Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove to oversee judicial proceedings associated with the special grand jury.
The special grand jury was selected April 15 in a Jefferson County Common Pleas courtroom.
Assistant Attorney General William F. Schenck said the grand jury will hear from law enforcement and fellow citizens and he will allow members of the grand jury to ask questions during testimony.
Schenck predicted there may be 30 to 40 witnesses called to testify.
Law and Gossett are reporters with the Steubenville Herald-Star.