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Volunteer coach found guilty Of lying in Ohio teen party rape case

By Elizabeth Daley

(Reuters) - A volunteer football coach was found guilty on Tuesday of lying to authorities and allowing underage drinking in connection with the rape of a teenage girl at a party in August 2012 that drew national attention to an Ohio town.

Matthew Belardine, 26, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to 10 days in jail by visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove in the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas.

By pleading no contest, Belardine did not admit guilt but agreed to the facts presented in the case, leaving it up to the judge to decide whether he was guilty or not.

Belardine's jail sentence was the first stemming from indictments brought by a grand jury called to determine whether adults in Steubenville, Ohio, had covered up the rape of a girl at a party to protect its high school football program.

The rape case drew national attention to Steubenville, which is about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh, after images that appeared to document the girl's assault circulated online and the hacker group Anonymous demanded justice.

Two high school football players were found guilty as juveniles of assaulting the girl and Ohio's attorney general asked for a grand jury to investigate possible obstruction.

The grand jury indicted the Steubenville City Schools superintendent, the district's former director of technology, an elementary school principal, a wrestling coach and Belardine on charges stemming from the August 2012 incident and another purported sexual assault of a teen girl at an April 2012 party.

Belardine was living with his parents in Steubenville and serving as a volunteer coach for freshmen football players when he returned home that August night and found his younger sister holding a large party with many underage drinkers.

The rape victim and her attackers were at the party, but she was assaulted later that night elsewhere.

Belardine told authorities investigating the rape allegation he had kicked the underage drinkers out immediately when he got home, but later admitted to investigators, and told the grand jury, he had waited more than an hour to shut down the party.

Cosgrove also fined Belardine $500 on each count and ordered him to perform 40 hours community service.

Prosecutors dropped failure-to-report a possible crime charges against the elementary school principal and the wrestling coach. The two agreed to do community service and were allowed to return to their positions.

"What we are after is justice, and I think justice has been served in every one of the cases that has been disposed of so far," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.

Felony and misdemeanor charges against the schools superintendent and a former technology director remain pending. The superintendent was placed on paid administrative leave.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Daley in Pittsburgh; Editing by David Bailey and Andrew Hay)

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