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Steubenville case: Four school workers plead not guilty

Keith Srakocic / Pool via Reuters

Trent Mays (L) and Ma'lik Richmond (R) sit in juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio, on March 15, 2013. They were convicted of raping a teenage girl.

Four school workers indicted by a grand jury investigating possible cover-ups in an Ohio rape case pleaded not guilty Friday, but the brief court hearing shed little light on exactly what they allegedly did.

The four were charged last month after a months-long probe looking for wrongdoing in connection with the sexual assault of a drunken 16-year-old girl in Steubenville by two high school football players after a booze-fueled party in August 2012.

After Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were convicted of rape and sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison in March, a grand jury convened to determine if anyone else broke any laws heard from 123 witnesses.

It ultimately issued six indictments, the first two against school technology director William Rhinaman, 53, who was charged with tampering with evidence and obstructing justice, and his 20-year-old daughter, Hannah, who was charged with a theft unrelated to the rape case.

Weeks later, four more indictments were filed against school employees.

Schools Superintendent Michael McVey, who appeared in court for the arraignment Friday, pleaded not guilty to tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, falsification and obstructing official business, NBC affiliate WTOV reported.

Reuters

Protesters gathered in front of the of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, in January to demand action in the rape case.

Volunteer football coach Matthew Belardine pleaded not guilty to allowing underage drinking, obstructing official business, falsification and contributing to delinquency of a minor. 

Lynnett Gorman, principal of West Elementary School, pleaded not guilty in a written statement. She is charged with failure to report child abuse, reportedly in connection with an unrelated claim of rape by a 14-year-old girl.

Strength coach Seth Fluharty pleaded not guilty in writing, as well. He is also charged with failure to report child abuse.

In announcing the charges, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the case was marked by "blurred, stretched and distorted boundaries of right and wrong" by students and grown-ups alike.

"How do you hold kids accountable if you don’t hold the adults accountable?" he asked.

“What you have is people who were not worried about a victim. They were worried about other things," DeWine added.

"People made bad choices, and the grand jury said there are repercussions."