COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A city already reeling from the conviction of two high school football players in the rape of a 16-year-old girl will back a wide-ranging probe that could target adults, including coaches, who failed to report the allegation initially, the city’s top official said Monday.
Residents of Steubenville want to see justice done and the city will be better off going forward because of the investigation, city manager Cathy Davison said.
“Football is important in Steubenville, but I think overall if you looked at the community in and of itself, it’s the education process, the moral fiber of our community, and the heritage of our community, that is even more important,” Davison told The Associated Press in her first comments since a judge on Sunday convicted the players.
The announcement of the guilty verdict was barely an hour old Sunday when state Attorney General Mike DeWine said he was continuing his investigation and would consider charges against anyone who failed to speak up after the attack last summer. That group could include other teens, parents, school officials and coaches for the high school’s beloved football team, which has won nine state championships.
A grand jury will meet in mid-April to consider evidence gathered by investigators from dozens of interviews, including with the football team’s 27 coaches.
Text messages introduced at the trial suggested the head coach was aware of the rape allegation early on. DeWine said coaches are among officials required by state law to report suspected child abuse.
“I’ve reached the conclusion that this investigation cannot be completed, simply cannot be completed, that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury,” DeWine said.
The attorney general, Ohio’s top law enforcement official, also said the rape was not an isolated problem specific to Steubenville. Sexual assaults occur every Friday and Saturday night across the country, DeWine said, calling it “a societal problem.”
Steubenville schools Superintendent Mike McVey released a statement Monday reiterating his position that the district was waiting until the trial ended to take action. The statement didn’t address the grand jury investigation.
“What we’ve heard so far is deeply disturbing,” McVey’s statement said. “At this time, we believe it is important to allow the legal process to play out in court before we as a school district make any decisions or take action against any of the individuals involved with this case.”
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison in a case that has rocked this Rust Belt city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville High School football team. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked.
They can be held until they turn 21.
The two broke down in tears after the judge delivered his verdict. They later apologized to the victim and the community, Richmond struggling to speak through his sobs.
“My life is over,” he said as he collapsed in the arms of his lawyer.
The crime, which took place after a party last summer, shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online. The case came to light via a barrage of morning-after text messages, social media posts and online photos and video.