Grand jury session delayed

STEUBENVILLE – A grand jury investigating possible additional charges in the rape of a 16-year-old girl won’t hear from witnesses for about two weeks after it is convened Monday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in an interview.

DeWine, without offering further details, said the delay relates to his office’s continuing evaluation of evidence.

“We have to do this right,” DeWine said Thursday. “We are still evaluating and going through some evidence and we do not want to start this process until we have done that.”

He said the decision was made to get the seating of the grand jury out of the way first, and said that would most likely conclude Monday.

About 150 people have been served with notices to appear Monday in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court to be considered as members of the grand jury. Fifteen people will be seated when the grand jury hears testimony behind closed doors. Some already have been dismissed because of age, medical condition or are college students out of town. No subpoenas have been issued for witnesses to appear.

Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville were found delinquent in March by visiting Judge Tom Lipps of rape in connection with an incident involving an intoxicated underage girl 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.

DeWine, after the verdict was announced, held a press conference in which he said a special grand jury would be convened beginning on Monday to determine if any other laws were violated, including failure to report a crime.

That could include members of the football team’s coaching staff. Testimony at trial indicated that head football coach Reno Saccoccia may have known early on about the allegation. Saccoccia has not commented and the school district has said it won’t comment until after the grand jury investigation.

Numerous teenagers, including the victim, were drinking at the party that night, with testimony indicating many of them brought alcohol to the house where the party was held.

Asked Thursday if the grand jury would consider charges related to underage drinking, DeWine said everything is being looked at.

“There will be nothing that is beyond the bounds of the grand jury,” he said.

The investigation could result in new charges or none at all, DeWine said. He said any potential charges against juveniles would be referred to the local prosecutor and would not come from the grand jury.

A special judge was appointed last month to oversee the grand jury at the request of Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Judge Joseph J. Bruzzese Jr. Bruzzese asked for the special judge because of continuing allegations of a local cover-up surrounding the case.

The Ohio Supreme Court appointed retired Summit County Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove to preside over the grand jury.