Special grand jury to begin work Tuesday

STEUBENVILLE — A special grand jury investigating additional charges sin the August rape of a 16-year-old Weirton female is scheduled to begin hearing testimony Tuesday in the Jefferson County Courthouse.

The special grand jury was selected April 15 in a Jefferson County Common Pleas courtroom.

Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville were found delinquent by visiting Judge Tom Lipps of rape in connection with an incident involving an intoxicated underage girl on Aug. 11-12. Mays also was found delinquent of 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.

But Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced after Lipps’ verdict that a special grand jury would be called to determine if anyone else involved in the case should be charged.

Assistant Attorney General William F. Schenck told the grand jury members that he predicts there may be 30 to 40 witnesses called to testify. Agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation are expected to be the first to testify.

DeWine, in a Thursday interview following the execution of search warrants at Steubenville City Schools facilities, said the special grand jury will meet three to four days a week until its work is completed.

“Grand jury proceedings are secret, so the public should not expect any reports from the grand jury until their work is done. Once the grand jury starts meeting Tuesday, it is going to be pretty quiet,” DeWine said.

“The grand jury is to determine if other crimes were committed in connection with the rape of the 16-year-old Weirton girl last August. Phase one of this case was the juvenile court trial that saw two young men found guilty of rape. Phase two will be the investigation to determine if any other crimes were committed. We are looking at every aspect of this case. I hope people will believe when were done we did everything we could to find the truth and that justice was done, said DeWine.

Retired Summit County Judge Patricia Ann Cosgrove was appointed by the Ohio Supreme Court to preside over the grand jury after Jefferson County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Bruzzese Jr. recused himself.

BCI agents seized electronic evidence Thursday from Steubenville City Schools computers as part of the grand jurys investigation.

Documents associated with the search warrants have been ordered sealed.

The special grand jury has 14 members, nine of which will vote on whether any indictments will be returned. Of the nine, six are female and three are male. Four alternates, all males, were selected and will not participate in the voting of indictments unless any of the nine are unable to remain seated on the panel.

Seven of the nine members of the grand jury need to vote as to whether there exists probable cause to bring an indictment. A regular jury in a criminal case must determine guilt based on beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher level of confidence a crime was committed. Cosgrove said the grand jury does not determine the guilt or innocence of a person.