COLUMBUS, Ohio – A grand jury Tuesday began investigating whether other laws were broken in the case of a 16-year-old girl a judge determined was raped by two high school football players after an alcohol-fueled party last summer.
One of the questions before the 14-person panel meeting in Steubenville, in eastern Ohio, is likely to be whether adults such as coaches or school administrators knew 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 players’ March trial.
Text messages introduced at trial indicated that Saccoccia may have known about the allegation but didn’t report it. If true, that would violate state law requiring coaches and others to report suspected abuse. Saccoccia has declined to comment, and the school board has declined to make him available.
Investigators searched Steubenville High School and the local school board offices Thursday.
The Steubenville school board said in a statement Thursday: “We have been from the beginning and are continuing to fully cooperate with the authorities in this investigation.”
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.
The owners of a home where a photo was taken of the Weirton, W.Va., girl being carried by the two boys later convicted of raping her also have been interviewed by investigators.
That home is where a 12-minute cellphone video was recorded of a former student laughing and making crude jokes about the girl and the attack as others laughed in the background.
The National Organization of Women has demanded that state Attorney General Mike DeWine charge the student seen in the video, Michael Nodianos, with failure to report a crime.
Nodianos’ 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 concluded its first day of secret work Tuesday afternoon and was to resume today. DeWine has said it will convene three or four days a week and hear from dozens of witnesses. Any charges recommended by the panel are likely weeks away.
A judge convicted the teens in March of raping the girl with their fingers after the party, once in a moving car, the second time in the basement of a house. The boys, who had maintained their innocence, were sentenced to one- and two-year terms in the state juvenile detention system.