STEUBENVILLE - Matthew Belardine, who was indicted by the special grand jury investigating aspects of the Steubenville rape case, was sentenced to 10 days in jail on Tuesday for allowing underage drinking at his parents' house and for not initially telling the truth to investigators.
A night of drinking in August 2012 led up to a Weirton girl being raped by two Steubenville High School students. The Belardine house on Wilma Avenue was the first house where a group of high school students were drinking that night.
Belardine came home that night to find his sister had invited friends over, said Dennis McNamara, Belardine's attorney. The Belardines' parents weren't home that weekend. He went upstairs to his room but came downstairs and told the 50 or so people at the party to quiet down, but the teens ignored him. About an hour later, Belardine told everyone to leave because the party had become too large and were making too much noise, McNamara said.
SENTENCED — Attorney Dennis McNamara of Columbus, left, talked with Matthew Belardine prior to Belardine being sentenced to 10 days in jail in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court on Tuesday. Belardine pleaded no contest to allowing underage drinking at his parents’ house on Wilma Avenue and for providing a false statement to law enforcement. He was one of six people indicted by a special grand jury investigating aspects of the Steubenville rape case. -- Mark Law
"He did the right thing, but didn't do it quickly enough," McNamara said. "He should have been more responsible and kicked them out as soon as he came through the door."
Belardine initially told police investigators he came home around midnight on the night of the party and told the teens to leave. He then changed the time to 11:15 p.m. and later told the special grand jury the time was 10 p.m.
McNamara said Belardine was intimidated and nervous about being questioned by law enforcement and gave false answers.
McNamara said Belardine has never been in trouble with the law in his life.
"He does accept responsibilities for the mistakes he made," McNamara said.
Angela Canepa, Ohio assistant attorney general, said Belardine didn't provide any alcohol but was aware of the drinking. Canepa said Belardine told the special grand jury he shouldn't have let the teens leave the house in their intoxicated condition.
Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove asked Belardine why he tried to get his sister, Kamy, to lie to police about the party. Belardine denied that, saying he had a discussion about things the police may be asking about in the initial stages of the rape investigation.
Cosgrove told Belardine, who was a volunteer coach on the Big Red freshman football team, that he was 24 years old at the time and the kids looked up to him. "You had an obligation to give them guidance," she said. The judge also said she didn't see a lot of remorse by Belardine.
Belardine said he didn't make the right decision quick enough to stop the party.
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.
"I learned a valuable lesson. No matter what, tell the truth no matter who it affects," Belardine added.
Cosgrove said nobody knows if Belardine had stopped the drinking that the events of the evening would have taken a different path.
Cosgrove suspended a six-month sentence but said there has to be some penalty for not telling law enforcement the truth. Belardine will report to the county jail at 10 a.m. on Friday. The judge also issued fines totaling $1,000. He will be on probation for one year.
Charges of obstructing official business and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile were dismissed when Belardine pleaded no contest to the other charges.
McNamara, after the sentencing, said his client knew the judge could impose a jail sentence even though the attorney general's office was not recommending jail time.
"I wouldn't have done that, but it isn't my decision to make," McNamara said of Cosgrove's sentence. "I can't say if the 10 days in jail is not unfair."
When asked if the sentence sends a message to the community about underage drinking, McNamara said, "The problem with sending that message is the people who need to hear it aren't listening."
(Law can be contacted at email@example.com.)