Special grand jury is seated
STEUBENVILLE – A special grand jury is expected to hear about 10 days of evidence beginning April 30 regarding whether any laws were violated by people surrounding the rape case involving two Steubenville High School student-athletes.
The special grand jury was quickly seated Monday after questioning by visiting retired Summit County Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court. A court official said 86 prospective jurors attended.
Cosgrove dismissed six prospective members after they said their employers would not compensate them if they were selected. One person, an assistant football coach at Indian Creek High School, was excused after he said he knows people who may be called as witness and that he has formed an opinion he can’t set aside to sit as an impartial juror.
Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville were found delinquent for rape March 17 by visiting Judge Thomas Lipps in an incident involving an intoxicated underage girl Aug. 11-12. Mays also was found delinquent on a charge 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.
Immediately after Lipps’ decision, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a special grand jury would be called to investigate whether other laws were broken.
“The grand jury is a very good investigative tool as well as a very deliberative body,” DeWine said, noting it will investigate everything that happened before and after the rape.
Two prosecutors from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Scott Longo and William F. Schenck, had no questions for the prospective members of the grand jury during the selection process.
Cosgrove told the prospective members that it requires courage to sit on the grand jury. She said it is the job of the grand jury to determine whether indictments should be returned. Cosgrove said the grand jury does not determine the guilt or innocence of a person and is considered an arm of common pleas court.
Schenck said the attorney general’s office is “extremely sensitive” to residents’ feelings about how Jefferson County is being perceived because of the case. He said it became obvious the community has been “tortured” as a result.
“Our goal is simple – let the people of this county do what is right,” Schenck told the panel of prospective jurors. “This is not an agenda (of Dewine). Our agenda is not to indict people. We need to get to the truth and if there is a basis to charge other persons. I have confidence in the grand jury system. Our only interest is the truth and, along with that, what is fair to the residents of the county. We are not interested in having a circus. We are not interested in violating anyone’s rights. We are not interested in harassing and embarrassing people.”
He said the grand jury will hear from law enforcement and citizens. Schenck said he will allow members of the grand jury to ask questions during testimony.
Schenck said 30-40 witnesses could be called. He said the grand jury will meet four days a week, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The grand jury is expected to determine whether anyone should be indicted for failing to report of a crime.