Created on Thursday, 03 October 2013 Written by ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Legal Affairs Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The grand jury investigating whether other laws were broken in the case of a 16-year-old girl raped in eastern Ohio last year has hit the five-month mark without criminal charges.
A chief issue before the 14-member panel is whether coaches, school administrators or other adults knew of the allegation but failed to report it as required by Ohio law.
The grand jury convened by Attorney General Mike DeWine has met periodically since its first meetings in late April and early May, when it heard three days of testimony and evidence.
DeWine said Wednesday the panel would meet again on Friday, likely for one day — the first time it has met since mid-August. He said he couldn't talk about its deliberations or offer a timeline.
"What we do in our office is we follow the facts and see where the facts take us and we do that with any investigation," DeWine said.
He added: "Certainly we want to move as quickly as we can."
DeWine announced the grand jury March 17, the same day a judge convicted two Steubenville High School football players of raping the West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party following a football scrimmage in August 2012.
Allegations of a cover-up dogged the case, despite charges brought against the boys shortly after the attack. Attention was fueled by online activists who said more football players should have been charged. Three teens who saw the attacks, including two players, were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.
The National Organization of Women has long called for DeWine to prosecute a fourth teen who cracked jokes about the rape in a video that implies he had direct knowledge of the assault. His attorney says he did not.
Grand juries operate by different rules and thresholds of guilt and face few deadlines other than statutes of limitations, said David Harris, a University of Pittsburgh criminal law professor. Prosecutors, who run the panels, aren't obliged to say how long grand juries will meet or make promises about its conclusions, Harris said.
"The bottom-line answer is that this could take as long as it takes," Harris said.
Former county prosecutor Mike Miller agreed, saying lengthy deliberations are more common in investigative grand juries looking at particular cases. By contrast, many counties have grand juries that meet daily, weekly or monthly to consider charges in more routine prosecutions.
"I'm sure that for something that's pretty far ranging, they'll get every bit of information they can before the grand jury," said Miller, a private practice attorney in Columbus who was Franklin County prosecutor from 1980 to 1996.
DeWine said last month that forensic work involving cellphones and computers had yet to be completed.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.