Court sessions held in rape case

STEUBENVILLE – Pretrials were held Tuesday for two defendants indicted by a special grand jury investigating aspects of the Steubenville rape case.

Former volunteer high school football coach Matthew Belardine and Seth Fluharty, a wrestling and conditioning coach and teacher at Garfield East Elementary School, were among six people indicted by the special grand jury called by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Fluharty was indicted on one misdemeanor count of failure to report child abuse or neglect on Aug. 13, 2012.

Belardine was indicted on four misdemeanor counts including allowing an underage person to consume beer or liquor, obstructing official business, falsification and contributing to the unruliness or delinquency of a child.

Belardine’s defense attorney held a conference call with the assistant attorneys general and visiting Summit County retired Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove. Belardine’s trial is now set for April 22, said Dan Tierney, Ohio Attorney General’s spokesperson.

Fluharty’s case will remain in the pretrial phase and no trial date has been set, Tierney said.

A trial date of March 4 has been set for Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Mike McVey, who was named in a five-count indictment charging 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.

The indictment claims McVey allegedly committed crimes starting on April 5, 2012.

Lynnette Gorman, the Pugliese West Elementary School principal who was named in a one-count misdemeanor indictment regarding failure to report child abuse or neglect, will have the charge dismissed if certain conditions are met. Gorman reached an agreement with the attorney general’s office on Jan. 8, the day her trial was set to begin.

The agreement states the charge against Gorman will be dismissed by June 1 but is contingent upon Gorman completing 40 hours of community service and speaking to other teachers and administrators in the city school district on the subject of recognizing and reporting child abuse and child neglect.

Gorman maintains she committed no crime but, in hindsight, believes she should have acted differently.

Her attorney, Dennis McNamara of Columbus, said Gorman heard about teenagers drinking and/or engaging in sexual conduct, and she inquired to determine if her son, then a junior in high school, had been present.

McNamara said Gorman talked to long-time friends and other parents, and learned that her son was not present. She learned that the parents of the teenagers who were there had been made aware of the situation, he said. McNamara said she was involved as a parent and not in her official capacity as an elementary principal.

In another case, William Rhinaman, the former director of technology for the Steubenville City School District and the first person indicted by the special grand jury, will have a pretrial hearing in his case on April 7, at which time a trial date also may be set by Cosgrove.

Rhinaman was indicted on charges of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury.

Rhinaman was charged with tampering with evidence by altering, destroying, concealing or removing evidence from Aug. 11, 2012, to April 25, 2013, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Rhinaman also is charged with attempting to stop the prosecution of another person by either concealing or destroying evidence and getting the person to withhold information or communicating false information from April 8 to Oct. 4.

The third count charges Rhinaman with obstructing official business from April 8 until Oct. 4.

The perjury charge claims Rhinaman made a false statement under oath to the special grand jury during a July 8 proceeding.

Rhinaman’s daughter, Hannah Rhinaman, is scheduled to enter a plea at 11 a.m. on Feb. 19 and enter a diversion program.

She was named in a three-count indictment on Oct. 23 charging her with two counts of receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony, and one count of grand theft, a fifth-degree felony.