By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
COLUMBUS: An employee in the same district where two Ohio high school football players were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl was charged Monday with interfering with a criminal matter, the first charges brought by a grand jury investigating whether other laws were broken in connection with the rape case.
The indictment announced by Attorney General Mike DeWine charges William Rhinaman with tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury.
Without elaborating, DeWine said the charges are related to Rhinaman’s job as an information technology employee at the Steubenville City Schools.
“The only thing I can is that the grand jury investigation continues,” DeWine said.
DeWine announced the grand jury March 17, the same day a judge convicted two Steubenville High School football players of raping the West Virginia teen after an alcohol-fueled party in August 2012 following a football scrimmage.
Rhinaman, 53, of Mingo Junction, was arrested after the charges from Friday’s indictment were made formal, DeWine said. He was scheduled to make his first court appearance Wednesday.
Rhinaman’s lawyer denied the charges against his client.
“Our position is he did nothing wrong,” said attorney Stephen Lamatrice, who declined further comment.
Steubenville schools Superintendent Mike McVey said Monday he was aware of the situation and promised to issue a news release today.
Allegations of a cover-up dogged the rape case, despite charges being brought against the boys shortly after the attack. Attention was fueled by online activists who said more players should have been charged. Three teens who saw the attacks, including two players, were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.
A key issue before the panel has been whether adults such as coaches or school administrators knew of the rape allegation but failed to report it as required by state law.
The grand jury has worked off and on since beginning work April 30. That day, investigators searched Steubenville High School and the local school board offices.
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 has denied it’s the subject of a criminal investigation.