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Ohio school employee pleads not guilty to hindering rape probe

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (Reuters) - The director of technology for the Steubenville, Ohio, schools pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that he obstructed an investigation into the rape last year of a teenage girl by two high school football players who were later convicted.

William Rhinaman, 53, was indicted on obstruction of justice, evidence tampering and perjury charges, all felonies, and obstructing official business, a misdemeanor - the first charges brought by a special grand jury that was launched after the rape trial.

The case drew national attention to Steubenville, which is about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh, after online postings of a photo and video that appeared to document the assault of the 16-year-old girl in a drunken stupor at a party.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in March launched the special investigation to determine whether other people may have committed crimes by hindering the investigation into the rape charges that swirled around Steubenville and its well-known high school football program since an August 2012 party.

The indictment does not provide details but accuses Rhinaman in part of tampering with evidence from August 11, 2012, the night of the party, to April 25, 2013, knowing an official proceeding or investigation was in progress or likely to be started.

Rhinaman had been held since his arrest Monday on the charges and appeared before Judge Patricia Cosgrove in an orange jump suit and shackles. He was released from the Jefferson County Jail after his court appearance, according to the sheriff's department.

A judge in March found two football players, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, delinquent in the sexual assault of the girl in the early morning of August 12, 2012, when witnesses said she was too drunk to move or speak.

The judge ordered Richmond held in a juvenile detention facility for at least one year and Mays at least two years. The juvenile system could hold them until age 21. Both were required to register as juvenile sex offenders.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley; Editing by David Bailey and Ken Wills)

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