Rhinaman pleads guilty

STEUBENVILLE – William Rhinaman, 54, of Wintersville, the former director of technology for the Steubenville City School District, Friday pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to 10 days in jail, bringing an end to the special grand jury investigation into all aspects of the Steubenville rape case.

Rhinaman was indicted in October 2013 on felony counts of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and perjury, in addition to the misdemeanor count of obstructing official business.

The felony counts were dismissed, and visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove sentenced Rhinaman to 10 days in jail.

Six people were indicted by the special grand jury called by Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine after the conviction of two Steubenville High School students for the rape of a Weirton girl in August 2012 following alcohol-fueled parties.

Angela Canepa, assistant attorney general, said Rhinaman deleted information on the computer of Michael McVey, former school superintendent, beginning on April 8, 2013, when the attorney general’s office issued a subpoena for the school district to preserve e-mails and other information on computers. Canepa said Rhinaman also deleted the e-mails and other information from the school’s computer servers.

McVey agreed to resign as superintendent on Jan. 12, just as his trial was to begin.

Canepa at the time said the evidence in the case may not have been able to prove it was McVey who deleted e-mails and other information on his computer as believed by the grand jury.

Canepa said there wasn’t much direct evidence against McVey. She added there was no way to tell what was in the deleted e-mails, even though Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation computer forensic experts checked city school computers.

Canepa said the strongest charge against McVey was obstructing officials business. But, since it was a misdemeanor, city schools could have brought McVey back as superintendent.

McVey faced two counts of obstructing justice and single counts of tampering with evidence, obstructing official business and falsification.

Cosgrove sentenced Rhinaman to 90 days in jail, but suspended the sentence, adding it was right that Rhinaman get some form of punishment. She sentenced Rhinaman to 10 days in jail, with credit for three days already served. Rhinaman will be able to serve the time in jail around his work schedule.

Rhinaman also will have to complete 40 hours of community service and pay a $250 fine. He will be on probation for one year. Cosgrove said she will impose the 90 days in jail if Rhinaman violates his probation.

Cosgrove noted the case brings an end to the special grand jury investigation.

All the participants suffered some sort of consequences, whether it was jail time, resignation of employment or court-ordered drug treatment, the judge said.

“Unfortunately a few bad apples in the barrel tarnished the name of the community. The majority of residents are good, decent people. I hope the community can now heal,” Cosgrove said.

Rhinaman’s attorney, Jerry McHenry of Pickerington, had no comment after the hearing.

DeWine issued a press release about Rhinaman’s plea but it contained no statement from from the attorney general.