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School employees set for court on Friday

December 12, 2013
By DAVE GOSSETT - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

STEUBENVILLE - Three current Steubenville school district employees and a former volunteer football coach will make an initial court appearance Friday morning to answer charges they were allegedly involved in one of two rape cases last year.

The arraignments set for School Superintendent Michael McVey, Pugliese West Elementary School Principal Lynette Gorman, Garfield East special education teacher Seth Fluharty and former Steubenville High School football coach Matt Belardine were delayed last week because of weather conditions.

All four will appear before visiting retired Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove at 11 a.m. Friday in a Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.

They were named in indictments issued by a special Jefferson County grand jury and announced on Nov. 25 by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

McVey was named in a five-count indictment, including one count of tampering with evidence and two counts of obstructing justice, both felonies. He 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.

The special grand jury also named Gorman in a one-count misdemeanor indictment regarding reporting child abuse or neglect on April 12, 2012.

Fluharty, wrestling and conditioning coach and teacher at Garfield East Elementary School, was indicted on one misdemeanor count regarding reporting child abuse or neglect on Aug. 13.

Belardine was named in 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.

Also set to appear before Cosgrove for pre-trial hearings Friday are William Rhinaman, the now-retired director of technology for the city school district, and his daughter, Hannah Rhinaman, who worked for the school district for approximately one month last year.

William Rhinaman was arrested on Oct. 7 and later entered a not guilty plea to charges, including tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury.

Hannah Rhinaman was indicted by the special grand jury on Oct. 23 on two counts of receiving stolen property and one count of theft related to her work as a contract employee for the school district. She also entered a not guilty plea during her arraignment.

DeWine said the indictment against Hannah Rhinaman was not related to the charges against her father.

Gorman and Fluharty initially were placed on administrative leave after the indictments were handed down, but were reinstated to their positions during a Dec. 3 school board meeting.

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

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.

DeWine said the grand jury that started meeting in April heard testimony from 123 individuals and reviewed evidence gathered by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation during 18 separate days.

"The special grand jury is comprised of citizens of Jefferson County and are a reflection of Steubenville and the people of this community. They have worked hard and have sacrificed a great deal to take on this important task. This was tough work. It took a long time to get all of the information needed to make their decisions. But barring any new evidence I believe their work is done," continued DeWine during the Nov. 25 press conference in Steubenville.

"People made bad choices and the grand jury said there are repercussions. There are consequences and there has to be accountability. This community has suffered. I feel for the citizens and what they have endured. I know they need to put this matter behind them. I have always known this to be a great community and a resilient community. It is time to let Steubenville move on," said DeWine.

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