Grand jury begins work in Ohio rape investigation
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A grand jury prepared to start examining evidence and hearing from witnesses in the case of a 16-year-old girl raped by two high school football players after an alcohol-fueled party last summer.
The 14-person panel which by law meets secretly is investigating whether other laws were broken in connection with the August attack in Steubenville in eastern Ohio.
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One of the questions before the grand jury, which begins its work on Tuesday, is likely to be whether adults like coaches or school administrators may have known about the rape allegation but failed to report it.
School 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 March trial.
Text messages introduced at trial indicated that Saccoccia may have known about the allegation but didn’t report it, which if true would violate Ohio law requiring coaches and others to report suspected abuse.
Investigators on Thursday searched Steubenville High School and the local school board offices.
“We have been from the beginning and are continuing to fully cooperate with the authorities in this investigation,” the Steubenville school board said in a statement Thursday.
Investigators also searched Vestige Digital Investigations, a digital forensics storage company in Medina in northeast Ohio. The company’s connection to the case was unclear and it denies it’s the subject of a criminal investigation.
“In many matters that we are engaged in, the turnover of data to other interested parties is handled through appropriate legal paths, including the issuing of subpoenas or search warrants,” the company said late Thursday.
The owners of a home where a photo was taken of the girl being carried by the two boys later convicted of raping her have also been interviewed by investigators.
That home is the same place a 12-minute cellphone video was filmed of a former student laughing and making crude jokes about the victim and the attack as others laughed in the background.
The National Organization of Women have demanded that Attorney General Mike DeWine charge the student seen in the video, Michael Nodianos, with failure to report a crime.
Nodianas’ attorney has said his client regrets his actions but didn’t have direct knowledge of the attack.
The emergence of the video helped spur allegations of a cover-up and frustration that more people weren’t charged in the rape.
DeWine says nothing is off the table for the grand jury, which he announced within hours of the guilty verdict March 17.
“What I promised the Steubenville community was we would get this over as quick as we could, but more importantly, we would do it right,” DeWine said last week after announcing the search warrants.
The grand jury will meet three to four days a week and hear from dozens of witnesses, DeWine said.
A judge convicted the teens in March of raping the Weirton, W.Va., girl after the party, once in a moving car, the second time in the basement of a house. The boys were sentenced to one- and two-year terms in the state juvenile detention system.