October 31, 2014

Medina
Rain
47°F

DeWine: Steubenville search warrants include Medina company

COLUMBUS — Police officers and investigators on Thursday were searching the high school attended by two football players who raped a 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.

Search warrants also were executed at Vestige Ltd., a digital evidence company in Medina, in addition to the Steubenville school board, DeWine said. The search warrants are part of an attempt to learn whether other laws may have been broken in connection with the rape.

“What I hope people will believe when we’re done is that we did everything we could to find the truth and that justice was done,” DeWine said in an interview. “What you’re seeing today is just part of that effort.”

Police officers and investigators began serving the warrants at about 2 p.m. and could work into the night, DeWine said. There was no immediate word on what the searches turned up.

Dan Tierney, a spokesman for DeWine’s office, confirmed the warrant served at Vestige Ltd., 23 Public Square, Suite 250, Medina, was related to the ongoing investigation into the rape.

Vestige Ltd. has offices in Pittsburgh and Columbus, but Don Wochna, Vestige’s chief legal officer, confirmed its headquarters are in Medina. According to its website, Vestige assists clients and their attorneys with researching electronic data.

The company would not comment on the warrants served Thursday.

“Vestige’s corporate policy is that we do not comment upon any matter entrusted to us,” Wochna said.

Tierney said Medina Municipal Court Judge Dale Chase sealed the Medina County search warrant. A judge in Jefferson County also sealed the warrants served in Steubenville.

The searches come as a 14-person grand jury prepares to hear from witnesses in Steubenville on Tuesday, two weeks after the panel was seated. Judges sealed investigators’ requests for the search warrants at the request of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation on the grounds that disclosing them “would be detrimental to the ongoing criminal investigation,” according to the judges’ orders.

Phone and email messages left Thursday for Steubenville Schools Superintendent Michael McVey weren’t immediately returned.

A chief issue before a grand jury is whether adults, especially any in supervisory positions over children, may have known about the rape but failed to report it as required by state law. Text messages introduced during the March trial indicated that head football coach Reno Saccoccia may have known about the assault early on.

A judge convicted the teens in March of raping the Weirton, W.Va., girl after the party, once in a moving car, the second time in the basement of a house. The boys were sentenced to one- and two-year terms in the state juvenile detention system.

The case has long been dogged by allegations of a cover-up and questions about why other people weren’t charged.

DeWine announced on the day of the verdict that he was convening the grand jury and said nothing was off the table as far as the panel’s investigation.