Attorneys prepare for court cases, gag order

STEUBENVILLE – Prosecutors told visiting retired Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove they will ask for a gag order as they prepare to try three Steubenville City School employees, a former volunteer high school football coach and the school district’s retired director of technology.

“We filed the motion in the Matthew Belardine case. We have not yet filed the motion in the other cases but that will depend on the court’s ruling in the Belardine case. We are providing all of the defense attorneys with a copy of the gag order motion,” Assistant Attorney General Scott Longo told Cosgrove Friday morning.

Longo’s announcement came at the close of arraignment proceedings for City Schools Superintendent Michael McVey, Pugliese West Elementary Principal Lynette Gorman, Garfield East special education teacher Seth Fluharty, former volunteer Steubenville High School football coach Belardine and retired director of technology William Rhinaman.

All three school employees and Belardine entered not guilty pleas Friday morning.

McVey, Belardine and Fluharty are scheduled to appear again in the Jefferson County Common Pleas Court on Jan. 17 for pre-trial hearings.

Gorman did not waive her right to a speedy trial and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 7 to face a single misdemeanor charge regarding failure to report child abuse or neglect on April 12, 2012.

Her attorney, Dennis McNamara, said Gorman did not appear at her arraignment hearing, “because she is at work doing her job.”

“We want a speedy trial because it is difficult for her to have this pending. We will request a jury trial and she wants to put this behind her,” McNamara stated, adding he anticipates a one-day trial.

“My understanding is she heard from a second- or thirdhand person about a party in April where some kids were allegedly drinking. Lynette asked her son if he was at the party because she is a responsible parent. Her son told her he was not at the party and she made some phone calls to make sure her son wasn’t at the party. She also heard some of the kids at the party were involved in sexual conduct. She was acting as a mom not as a school principal. She didn’t believe she was required to report the party,” McNamara told reporters after the court hearing.

“Lynette Gorman has the confidence of the school board. They initially placed her on paid leave after the indictments were announced but after they saw the charges, they let her go back to work. She doesn’t want all of this attention. She was just trying to be a conscientious mother. She determined her son was not at the party and moved on,” added McNamara.

“We are opposed to a gag order. The Ohio attorney general held a press conference to announce these indictments and discuss the charges and now they are asking us not to talk about the case,” Charles Bean of St. Clairsville, who is representing McVey, said after the hearing.

“We are confident we will prevail. The special grand jury has met for nine months and this is all they have. I am confident my client will go back to work,” Bean stated.

McVey was named in a five-count indictment last month, including one count of tampering with evidence and two counts of obstructing justice, both felonies. McVey also was indicted with two misdemeanors, including one count of falsification and one count of obstructing official business.

McVey remains on administrative leave. Former Superintendent Richard Ranallo has been appointed by the school board to serve as interim superintendent.

Belardine was indicted last month on a four misdemeanor-count alleging he allowed an underage person to consume beer or liquor, obstructing official business, falsification and contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child.

Columbus attorney Tom Tyack representing Garfield East special education teacher Seth Fluharty said his client was entering a not guilty plea on a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse or neglect.

Fluharty did not appear for his arraignment.

Pre-trial hearings for McVey, Belardine and Fluharty are set for 11 a.m. on Jan. 17 before Cosgrove.

A pre-trial hearing for Hannah Rhinaman was continued until Jan. 17.

She is accused of two counts of receiving stolen property and one count of theft related to her work as a contract employee for the school district.

William Rhinaman did not appear in court Friday. He was the first person to be indicted by the special grand jury investing other alleged events stemming from the August 2012 rape of a Weirton teenage girl by two Steubenville High School students.

His attorney, Neil Rubin of the Akron area, was unable to attend Rhinaman’s pre-trial hearing and he is now expected to make another court appearance next week.

Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays were convicted in March in connection with the August 2012 rape of a Weirton teenage girl following a series of alcohol-fueled parties.

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.

Richmond and Mays are serving sentences in Ohio Department of Youth Services facilities.