Jury meets at 911 center

From staff reports

STEUBENVILLE – A demand for courtroom space in the Jefferson County Courthouse has forced a special grand jury to move its proceedings to the county 911 center at the Jefferson County Airpark.

The grand jury on Tuesday began investigating whether other laws were broken in the case of a 16-year-old girl a judge determined was raped by two high school football players after an alcohol-fueled party last summer.

One of the questions before the 14-person panel is likely to be whether adults such as coaches or school administrators knew about the rape allegation but failed to report it.

Superintendent Mike McVey has previously acknowledged that he, other administrators and head football coach Reno Saccoccia were interviewed by investigators in the days leading up to the players’ March trial.

Text messages introduced at trial indicated that Saccoccia may have known about the allegation but didn’t report it. If true, that would violate state law requiring coaches and others to report suspected abuse. Saccoccia has declined to comment, and the school board has declined to make him available.

Investigators on Thursday searched Steubenville High School and the school board offices.

The Steubenville school board said in a statement Thursday: “We have been from the beginning and are continuing to fully cooperate with the authorities in this investigation.”

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

The owners of a home where a photo was taken of the Weirton girl being carried by the two boys later convicted of raping her also have been interviewed by investigators.

That home is where a 12-minute cellphone video was recorded of a former student laughing and making crude jokes about the girl and the attack as others laughed in the background.

The emergence of the video helped spur allegations of a cover-up and frustration that more people weren’t charged in the rape.

On March 17, 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.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced after Lipps delivered his verdict that a special grand jury would be called to determine if anyone else involved in the case should be charged. The special grand jury was selected April 15 in a Jefferson County Common Pleas courtroom.

DeWine says nothing is off the table for the grand jury.

“What I promised the Steubenville community was we would get this over as quickly as we could, but more importantly, we would do it right,” DeWine said last week after announcing the search warrants.

The grand jury concluded its first day of secret work Tuesday afternoon and was to resume today. DeWine has said it will convene three to four days a week and hear from dozens of witnesses. Any charges recommended by the panel are likely weeks away.

Assistant Attorney General William F. Schenck told the grand jury members that there may be 30 to 40 witnesses called to testify. Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation are expected to be the first to testify.