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THE TOP STORIES OF 2013: DeWine Closes Book on Rape Case

December 29, 2013
By FRED CONNORS Senior Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

EDITOR'S NOTE: The past 12 months have been interesting - and at times, trying - for local residents, as natural gas drilling, politics, court cases and numerous other issues dominated the daily headlines. Concluding today, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register present the Ohio Valley's top 10 stories of 2013, as voted on by the newspapers' editors.

STEUBENVILLE - Two chapters of the Steubenville rape case closed in 2013, but another opened that will play out in the new year.

The first chapter closed in March, as, amid a media frenzy for the first part of the year, visiting Judge Thomas Lipps in March found the two juveniles charged with the rape, Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond, guilty.

He sentenced Richmond to at least one year in a juvenile correctional facility for the rape, and Mays to at least two years for raping a 16-year-old Weirton girl in August 2012 and taking a picture of her naked.

Both will have to register as sex offenders upon their release.

Within an hour of Lipps' ruling, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the second chapter of the case, noting he would be forming a special grand jury to investigate the circumstances surrounding the rape.

That grand jury, which met 18 times over the course of about six months, handed down six indictments - five directly resulting from the August 2012 rape and another alleged rape that took place in April 2012, and one indictment for charges unrelated to either rape.

The grand jury's first indictment was for William Rhinaman, the former technology director for the Steubenville City School District. He has pleased innocent and is set to go on trial Feb. 24. The grand jury indicted Rhinaman on Oct. 4. He faces charges of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury.

Grand jurors also indicted Hannah Rhinaman, 20, the daughter of William Rhinaman, on one count of theft and two counts of receiving stolen property. Her alleged crimes are not tied in any way to the rape case but were uncovered during the grand jury's investigation.

Then, in late November, the grand jury finished its work when it handed down four more indictments - Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Michael McVey; West Elementary Principal Lynnett Gorman; wrestling/conditioning coach and teacher at Garfield East Elementary School Seth Fluharty; and former volunteer coach, Matthew Belardine.

All of those indicted have pleaded innocent to the charges. McVey faces charges of obstructing justice, tampering with evidence, obstructing official business and falsification; Gorman and Fluharty are charged with failing to report possible child abuse; and Belardine faces several misdemeanor charges including making false statements and contributing to underage alcohol consumption.

DeWine said he does not anticipate any additional arrests.

"It's time for the community to move on," he said.

The next chapter will play out this year, as all six cases proceed through the court system.

McVey faces the most serious charges handed down by the grand jury. The indictment against McVey stems from alleged crimes starting on April 5, 2012, and running through Nov. 19. 2013. He faces one count of tampering with evidence and two counts of obstructing justice, all felonies, and misdemeanor counts of falsification and obstructing official business. The indictment does not specify if McVey had any alleged role in covering up the August rape. If convicted of all crimes, he faces nearly six years in jail.

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