Four Ohio school employees plead not guilty to charges in rape case

Four eastern Ohio school workers entered not guilty pleas Friday

to charges stemming from a grand jury investigation into other

alleged crimes spurred by the rape of a 16-year-old girl by two

high school football players.

The four include Mike McVey, Steubenville’s top school official,

whose attorney promised to fight the charges.

“We are confident that we are going to prevail in these cases

and prove they’re unfounded,” said McVey’s attorney, Charles Bean.

“This was an investigation that went nine months and this is all

they have?”

Special Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove accepted the not-guilty

pleas Friday in Jefferson County court and let the four remain free

without bond.

In total, six individuals have been indicted by the rape

investigation grand jury, whose work is finished.

McVey and three others are charged with trying to thwart the

investigation into the August 2012 rape of the West Virginia girl

by the football players. The players were convicted in March and

sentenced to the state’s juvenile detention system.

McVey is Steubenville’s superintendent. The others are former

Steubenville schools’ technology director William Rhinaman,

football team strength coach Seth Fluharty and volunteer football

coach Matt Belardine.

A fifth defendant, elementary school principal Lynnett Gorman,

is accused of failing to report possible child abuse, apparently

involving a teen sex and drinking party in April 2012 unrelated to

the West Virginia girl’s rape, her attorney, Dennis McNamara, said

after the hearing.

“None of this has anything to do with her job,” said McNamara,

who added that Gorman learned about the party second- or third-hand

while checking to see if her son had been involved.

Because parents of the teens knew of the party’s circumstances,

“I don’t think she had an obligation” to report it, McNamara

said.

A sixth defendant, Hannah Rhinaman, is the daughter of William

Rhinaman. She is accused of stealing school equipment in an alleged

crime investigated by the grand jury but unrelated to the rape

case.

The football players’ rape of the 16-year-old girl drew

nationwide attention because of allegations prosecutors didn’t

charge more individuals.

McVey’s charges include felony counts of obstructing justice and

tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor charge alleging he made a

false statement in April 2012.

Belardine, whose house authorities said was the scene of the

underage drinking party that preceded the rape last summer, faces

several misdemeanor charges.

Fluharty was charged with failing to report possible child abuse

in August 2012.

William Rhinaman is charged with evidence tampering, obstructing

justice, obstructing official business and perjury. The 53-year-old

Mingo Junction man has pleaded not guilty.

Hannah Rhinaman faces theft and receiving stolen property

charges. She has pleaded not guilty.