Rhinaman trial is set for Feb. 24

STEUBENVILLE – William Rhinaman, the former director of technology for the Steubenville City School District and the first person indicted by the special Jefferson County grand jury, is tentatively set to go on trial on Feb. 24.

The special grand jury held periodic sessions beginning April to investigate if additional crimes were committed following the August Steubenville rape case that saw two Steubenville High School students convicted of the rape of a teenage Weirton girl.

Rhinaman was indicted by the special grand jury on Oct. 4 and arrested by Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents on Oct. 7 at his Mingo Junction home.

He was arraigned on Oct. 8 on charges of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury.

Rhinaman was scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Dec. 13 but the hearing was delayed, according to assistant Ohio Attorney General Scott Longo, because Rhinaman’s attorney was unable to attend the session in the Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.

Neil Rubin, the Akron-area attorney representing Rhinaman, did not return a message left on his office answering machine.

A spokesperson for Attorney General Mike DeWine confirmed Monday a pretrial hearing was held by a telephone conference call on Thursday and a final pre-trial hearing is now set for Jan. 28.

The spokesperson said Rhinaman’s trial is tentatively set for Feb. 24 in Jefferson County before visiting retired Summit County Common Pleas Judge Patricia Cosgrove.

Rhinaman was named in a four-count secret indictment issued on Oct. 7 accusing the 53-year-old Mingo Junction man with tampering with evidence by altering, destroying, concealing or removing evidence from Aug. 11, 2012, to April 25, 2013.

A series of parties that ended with a Weirton girl being raped by two Steubenville High School students occurred on Aug. 11.

Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays were convicted earlier this year of rape and sentenced to terms in the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

Count two of the indictment handed down by the special grand jury accuses Rhinaman tried to stop the prosecution of another person by either concealing or destroying evidence and getting the person to withhold information or communicating false information from April 8 to Oct. 4.

The third count charges Rhinaman with obstructing official business from April 8 until Oct. 4.

The perjury charge claims Rhinaman made a false statement under oath to the special grand jury during a July 8 proceeding.

The Steubenville board of education immediately placed Rhinaman on paid administrative leave.

He retired from his job effective Nov. 1.

Rhinaman’s daughter, Hannah Rhinaman, had her pretrial hearing continued until Jan. 17.

Hannah Rhinaman was named in a three-count indictment on Oct. 23 charging her with two counts of receiving stolen property, a fifth-degree felony and one count of grand theft, a fifth-degree felony.

According to a press release issued Oct. 23 by the attorney general’s office, “The charges against Hannah Rhinaman are related to incidents that occurred at Steubenville City Schools. However, the charges are separate and unrelated to the previous indictment issued against her father, William Rhinaman on Oct. 7.”

DeWine said Hannah Rhinaman was employed by the city school district for approximately one month in 2012.

“She took property from the school district and sold it,” DeWine said during an October telephone interview.

DeWine said Hannah Rhinaman’s indictment was not connected with the grand jury indictment of her father.

Pugliese West Principal Lynnette Gorman is scheduled to go on trial before Cosgrove on Jan. 7.

Gorman, Superintendent Michael McVey, Garfield East Special Education teacher Seth Fluharty and former volunteer Steubenville High School football coach Matthew Belardine entered not guilty pleas during their Dec. 13 arraignment hearing.

Columbus attorney Dennis McNamara represented Gorman at her arraignment and did not waive her right to a speedy trial.

Gorman is facing a one-count misdemeanor charge regarding failure to report child abuse or neglect on April 12, 2012.

McNamara later said Gorman “wants a speedy trial to put all of this behind her.”

The visiting judge also has been asked by the state prosecutors to issue a gag order for future court proceedings.

That initial announcement was opposed by McNamara, McVey’s attorney, Charles Bean of St. Clairsville, and Belardine’s attorney, Adam Neeman of Columbus.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com.)