School employees plead not guilty

STEUBENVILLE – Three Steubenville City School employees entered not guilty pleas Friday morning during the initial court appearance in a Jefferson County Common Pleas courtroom.

The fourth defendant, Matthew Belardine, a former volunteer coach for the Steubenville High School football team, also entered a not guilty plea during his brief appearance before visiting retired Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove.

Superintendent Michael McVey was the first person to make an appearance.

McVey was named in a five-count indictment, 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.

Belardine was indicted last month on a four misdemeanor-count indictment 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 Dennis McNamara appeared without his client, Lynette Gorman, and entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.

He did not waive her right to a speedy trial and Gorman is scheduled to go on trial at 9 a.m. on Jan. 7 on a one-count misdemeanor charge regarding failure to report child abuse or neglect on April 12, 2012.

McNamara later said Gorman “wants a speedy trial to put all of this behind her.”

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, 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, did not appear in court Friday.

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.

Ohio assistant Attorney General Scott Longo also announced in court he plans to seek a gag order for future court proceedings.

That initial announcement was opposed by McVey’s attorney Charles Bean of St. Clairsville and Belardine attorney Adam Neeman of Columbus.