Steubenville school official could get more jail time than rapists

What's the right punishment if adults knew about the rape?

Topics: Steubenville, steubenville rape case, Trent Mays, Ma'lik Richmond,

Steubenville school official could get more jail time than rapistsTrent Mays, 17, left, and 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond sit at the defense table before the start of their trial on rape charges in juvenile court on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in Steubenville, Ohio. (Credit: AP/Keith Srakocic)

William Rhinaman, the 53-year-old director of technology at Steubenville High School, has never been accused of being anywhere near the 16-year-old local girl who was raped on the night of Aug. 12, 2012. Yet he now faces the possibility of serving more time in prison than the two young men convicted of sexually assaulting her. On Monday, an Ohio grand jury indicted Rhinaman on charges of tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, obstructing official business and perjury in a case that shocked the small community – and the nation.

It’s known that the convicted high school players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, documented and shared their abuse of the girl among their peers, who gleefully joked about it across Twitter and YouTube. And even when talk among the students began to turn toward the possibility of consequences, the boys seemed unconcerned, noting the adults in their community had their backs. In texts, Mays said of coach Reno Saccoccia, “I got Reno. He took care of it and shit ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court … Like, he was joking about it, so I’m not worried.” Earlier this year it looked more than likely Saccoccia would find himself under criminal investigation; the only repercussion for him so far has been a two-year renewal of his contract as director of administrative services from the Board of Education.

The ugly elements of complicity and apparent coverup have long lingered over the case, though it seemed for a while they were going to be quietly forgotten. Just last week, the Associated Press noted that the grand jury was heading toward the six-month mark without any decisive action toward any other individual allegedly involved in the case.



But the arrest of Rhinaman, who today finds himself jailed without bail, suggests that further accountability may soon be demanded not just of him but many other members of the Steubenville community. The details of the charges against Rhinaman have not yet been revealed; Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told reporters Monday “the arrest is only the first part of an ongoing grand jury investigation.” The AP says that investigators have searched the Steubenville High School and the local school board offices, as well as Vestige Digital Investigations, a digital forensics storage company.

Richmond is currently serving one year in a juvenile correctional facility for the rape, and Mays is serving two. If convicted, Rhinaman could serve four. Failure to report a felony is a criminal offense — and the charges against him are more elaborate than those against Mays and Richmond. His attorney Stephen Lamatrice says, “Our position is he did nothing wrong.” But the victim’s attorney Robert Fitzsimmons told a local news affiliate Tuesday, “Now you see the responsibility as to what parents, teachers, principals, IT people in positions that are supposed to be protecting children, you see the shift to them — what responsibility do they have?”

Among the many horrifying aspects of the Steubenville case has been the strong sense not just that some boys abused a girl who was incapable of consent, but that the adults around them may have actively tried to assist them in getting away with it. If true, is that a worse crime than the rape; does it merit a stronger punishment? No, but it does suggest a difference between the vicious, unthinking inhumanity of a minor and the chilling possibility of an adult’s attempted injustice — one that was well considered. It implies that members of a school community cared more about their athletes than about some girl who got drunk at a party. Even some girl who was violated and humiliated and laughed at. Though there’s much still to be revealed, it’s certain that Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were not alone in the degradation of that girl, and they shouldn’t be alone in answering for it. Last March, Mike DeWine told CNN, “One of the lessons of life is we have to take care of each other, and we have to try to help people and we have to do what’s right. And there were precious few people that night that were doing what was right.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...