Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) defended his decision to keep protecting the 16-year-old victim in the rape case that became an international flashpoint after she was assaulted in Steubenville, Ohio, in August 2012.
“We’re sick and tired of the victim being victimized,” DeWine told Today Show host Savannah Guthrie. “We have to protect the victim. We’re gonna take whatever action it takes to protect this young lady.”
Two 16-year-old girls are in custody for allegedly threatening the victim following the March 17 conviction of two Steubenville High School football players, Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond, for attacking the victim.
“Freedom of speech is fine, First Amendment is wonderful,” DeWine said. “But these two individuals crossed the line. You cannot, under Ohio law, threaten to kill someone. We’re not gonna tolerate it and we’re not gonna put up with it.”
Even though the trial is over, DeWine said, the victim and her family are still being hurt.
“Imagine going through a rape and then having to see things on the internet that are totally obnoxious,” he said. “Now, not only that but she is threatened and her life is threatened.”
The case was brought to the public’s attention when the hacker group Anonymous released video and text messages initially published after the initial assault, all making light of the incident.
DeWine will convene a grand jury in April to determine whether more people should face charges for failing to report what happened to the girl, a misdemeanor under state law.
“I think I owe the Steubenville community two things,” DeWine said. “One is to try to get this thing over with as quickly as we can. Two, to do it the right way and to leave no stone unturned. I think people will need to feel that justice was done and that no one was obstructing justice in any way.”
DeWine said the grand jury is a continuation of the process, since his office had already interviewed 60 people in connection with the case.
“Do you have, as prosecutors often do, a particular target in this grand jury investigation?” Guthrie asked, before alluding to head football coach Reno Saccoccia, who is still employed by the school.
“I think that would be a mistake, to think we’re looking specifically at the football coach — or coaches; there’s 27 coaches, actually, for the football team,” DeWine said. “We’re looking at every aspect of this. I mean, the rape case is over with. [Mays and Richmond] have been found guilty. I think clearly that was the correct verdict. But we’re looking to see, was there any other crime committed surrounding this rape? We’re not going into it with any preconceived notions, and we may come out with indictments and we may not. We’ll see where the evidence takes us.”
The school’s website lists 20 coaches for the football program.
Watch Guthrie’s interview with DeWine, aired Wednesday on NBC, below.