Good That the Two Steubenville Rapists Have Been Judged Guilty, But Are Dozens More in the Community Getting Off Scot Free?
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Hanlin did not recuse herself until August 28, when she turned the case over to the state prosecutors who brought it to trial. On the same day, Jefferson County Juvenile Judge Sam Kerr also recused himself from the case for similar reasons of community and football team connections.
Grand Jury Directly Threatens Community Cover-up
Even the earliest online comments last August were riddled with suspicion of a cover-up in Steubenville, given local awareness of the apparent interconnectedness of the Steubenville power structure. Jefferson County Common Pleas Court Judge Frank Bruzzese, for example, owns the law firm that employs Jane Hanlin, who in her other role as prosecutor has an assistant prosecutor who is the judge's son. Not surprisingly, then, the judge declined to empanel and oversee a grand jury, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to do the job.
Judge Bruzzese, in his request for an outside judge, failed to distinguish between an official cover-up that suppresses (or fails to gather) evidence and a community cover-up that withholds evidence. Rather, the judge complained of "a substantial controversy surrounding this case provoked primarily by nameless bloggers making allegations of cover-up. These nameless bloggers, while having produced no evidence of a cover-up, have managed to assemble quite a following locally, nationally and internationally."
The Supreme Court obliged the judge's request on March 21, naming a retired judge from another county, Common Pleas Court Judge Patricia A. Cosgrove. The judge, who served 35 years in public service, including 18 years on the Summit County bench, had retired in August 2011 to care for her husband during a serious illness. She had also served as the court's chief administrative judge, elected to that position by her fellow judges. At the time of her retirement, a lawyer who had practiced before her for years, lavished praise on her:
She's special for a lot of reasons. She has experience. She is intelligent. She made decisions that were difficult, but if the law commanded it, that was the result ...
Maybe above all, she had great judicial temperament. Even if she ruled against you, you knew she did it for the right reason, even if you disagreed. Everything about her is what you would think a person would want if you were going to do a template for a judge in common pleas court.
The Grand Jury Has a Target-Rich Environment
Grand Jury proceedings are secret, but there are some clues as to who will be called by Ohio prosecutors. Attorney General DeWine has made quite clear his dissatisfaction with the 16 people, unnamed, who have refused to cooperate with investigators for the past seven months. Others likely to be called might include any of the 56 people already interviewed and all those who are likely well-known to prosecutors as being involved directly or indirectly in the rape of Jane Doe and its aftermath.
Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison promptly endorsed the further investigation, saying that the attorney general "wants to make sure that everyone that was involved is held accountable and obviously we do want that to happen."
Implicitly acknowledging the community cover-up, the attorney general issued a statement on March 17, announcing the Grand Jury and explaining in part:
I have reached the conclusion that this investigation cannot be completed - that we cannot bring finality to this matter - without the convening of a Grand Jury ... The Grand Jury could meet for a number of days, and, I should point out, that the convening of a Grand Jury does not necessarily mean that indictments will be returned or that charges will be filed. However, indictments could be returned and charges could be filed ...