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Support Grows for Steubenville’s Head Football Coach Despite His Role in Rape Coverup

(Update at the bottom)

A reader of Dispatches from the Underclass who grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, has alerted me to a protest planned for Saturday, March 30, in support of Steubenville High School head football coach, Reno Saccoccia.

“This man does alot for kids, you cannot blame a coach for the actions of a few kids!”, says the event’s facebook page, launched by a woman named Jackie Sacripanti.

It appears that attendees are upset that Saccoccia could face prosecution for failing to report that two of his football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, raped a 16-year-old West Virginia girl.

Mays and Richmond were convicted earlier this month in a trial that garnered national headlines. Immediately following their guilty verdict, Attorney General Mike DeWine told reporters that the investigation wasn’t over and that those who knew about the rape but failed to report it could still face charges, including other teens, parents, school officials and coaches. Next month, a grand jury will review evidence “from dozens of interviews, including with the football program’s 27 coaches, which include junior high, freshman and volunteer coaches,” reports the Associated Press.

Evidence introduced at trial suggests that Saccoccia not only knew about the rape but laughed about it and assured the boys that he would shield them from punishment. A text message sent by Mays to an unnamed friend said, “I got Reno. He took care of it and shit ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court. Like he was joking about it so I’m not worried.”

Nevertheless, Saccoccia’s many supporters have declared they will support him no matter what.

Joey Lamantia says his family “fully supports Coach Sac 120% and always will”. (I was unable to verify whether Joey is related to Bob Lamantia, one of the many Big Red football coaches at Steubenville High School.) Here is a screenshot of his comment with an equally supportive response:

SteubenvilleCoach

Another commenter says the coach’s critics are just jealous of the high school’s successful football program:

CoachSac2

Only one person, Daniel Hudson, pushed back. “Standing by and watching an event of horrific proportions is the same as doing it. This is a message to all of you,” he wrote repeatedly on the event’s Facebook page.

Pushback

One of Saccoccia’s supporters, Anthony Forte, fired back at Hudson, calling his comment a “threat”. He encouraged others to report Hudson to Facebook.

Steubenville

Jackie Sacripanti, creator of the facebook page, also responded to Hudson, saying, “here is a message for you….get the hell off my page!”

It’s quite telling that none of Saccoccia’s supporters bothered to mention the rape victim or her rapists who, with Saccoccia’s guidance, believed they would get away with it. Instead, the coach is portrayed as a victim, end of story.

Change.org Petition

Online support for the beloved coach isn’t limited to Facebook. His supporters have also started a petition at Change.org, titled, “The Big Red Nation: Stand up and support Coach Reno Saccoccia.” At the time of this writing, 201 people have signed it.

According to the petition, “Coach Saccoccia has devoted the past 30 plus years of his life to Steubenville City Schools and the City of Steubenville. He has helped countless students,families and citizens of this great community. It is our turn to support him and his family.”

Again, none of Saccoccia’s supporters appear to have anything to say about the allegations against the coach, arguing instead that he is a wonderful person and therefore above the law. Meanwhile, the rape victim is completely invisible and the rapists, whose behavior Saccoccia enabled, are barely mentioned. Here is a screenshot of several comments on the Petition page:

CoachPetition

For more on the role of Saccoccia in perpetuating rape culture, I highly reccomend you read Barry Petchesky’s article at Deadspin, titled,  “Why Does Steubenville’s Football Coach Still Have His Job?“. Based on Petchesky’s breakdown of the damning evidence against the coach, it’s difficult to argue that Saccoccia is anything less than a rape culture enthusiast who values high school football far more than a teenage girl’s right to not be raped. Even worse, Petchesky points out that Saccoccia wasn’t alone.

Saccoccia wasn’t the only Steubenville coach to stand up for the players. One of his staffers told the New York Times that “the rape was just an excuse…What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something.”

The lengthy New York Times exposé, credited with bringing the Steubenville rape case into the national spotlight, paints an even more disturbing picture of Saccoccia:

Saccoccia, pronounced SOCK-otch, told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.

The two players who testified at a hearing in early October to determine if there was enough evidence to continue the case were eventually suspended from the team. That came eight games into the 10-game regular season.

Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, Saccoccia said he did not “do the Internet,” so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.

“You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.

Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”

It’s hard to imagine Saccoccia’s supporters behaving the same way had he actively helped two football players get away with murder instead of rape. It’s as though rape isn’t taken seriously in Steubenville, like it’s some sort of non-crime. And that, my friends, is what we call “rape culture”.

Update: The Facebook event page for the Saturday protest appears to have been deleted after being flooded with anti-rape messages. Here is a screenshot from before it was taken down:

FacebookEventSteubenville

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18 Comments
  1. In my personal opinion anybody that helped cover it up, or helped it happed deserves to be punished to the furthest extent of the law. Not as severe as the 2 that did it, but punishment is due.

    March 26, 2013
  2. @Christian Oregon Homes: For those who helped and deliberately lied, I wholeheartedly agree. But no-one should be required to report the actions of someone they are otherwise not responsible for, that would be a massive infringement on civil liberties. He is not responsible for what those people did outside of his due care. I personally would not like to be held responsible for the actions of others either, that mindset will eventually result in terrible consequences.

    @Mr. Author:

    Saccoccia, pronounced SOCK-otch, told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.

    I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here. There was *no* immediate evidence a rape had taken place based on the pictures alone, from what I have seen. He likely questioned the players individually and believed what they said – then stood up for them as an advocate, taking them at their word. How is that different to anyone else advocating for someone they take at their word? He trusted the players, he didn’t bench them as there was no provable reason to.

    The two players who testified at a hearing in early October to determine if there was enough evidence to continue the case were eventually suspended from the team.

    He suspended them in the end after it became clear they had likely raped, that’s called being responsible. I don’t see the problem with him taking the boys at face value if what they said sounded plausible at the time and then later making a judgement after seeing evidence which suggested they had likely raped the girl.

    The legal system is *innocent until proven guilty* for a reason. He believed them innocent until proven guilty. What is the damn problem?

    March 26, 2013
    • He may not be responsible for that person, but it is his responsibility to report. He is mandated to report ANY hearsay, suspicion, or witnessing of ANY abuse against a minor, and if the Grand Jury finds evidence that he was aware of this and didn’t, he most likely will be charged. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that he secured himself a tampering with evidence charge in the very least. That police interview tape did not show him in the best light. He clearly said that he told the boys not to offer any information to the police, that is tampering.

      March 26, 2013
    • teele #

      Mr. Hare: Do you think, then, that the Unabomber’s brother was out of line for “ratting out” his sibling? After, we are none of us our brother’s keeper, and as adults are not responsible for what our siblings do. Do you think it is acceptable that someone who suspects that her neighbor is running a meth lab turns a blind eye, because she is not responsible for their actions? I would have to guess that you thought it very unfair that Joe Paterno ended his career and life in shame, for failing to pursue the reports about Jerry Sandusky’s pedophilia. I mean, he didn’t actually see anything, so he had no reason to believe it was really a problem.

      Certainly, no one should be railroaded; but if no investigation takes place, no justice will ever be served. Putting your career ahead of seeking the truth is not an admirable quality, and if the parents in this school district are willing to sacrifice the safety of their children so they can brag about he sports program at the high school, they are not good parents. Until the police investigation is completed, it seems unwise either to excoriate or celebrate this coach.

      March 27, 2013
    • lafleik #

      You are making a lot of assumptions here that don’t quite fit what has been reported. His pathetic excuse that he had nothing to base suspensions on because the boys didn’t think they’d done anything wrong by posting nude photos and comments on the internet sounds legitimate to you? That was probably his plan of attack when the one boy first approached him about what had happened. That’s why he’d said he’d take care of it, which the one boy texted to the other. He didn’t suspend them because they didn’t know they shouldn’t paste nude photos and crude comments about an unconscious, underage rape victim all over the internet. Too bad for for all of them, because ignorance of the law is not a valid defence.

      Besides, I don’t believe for a second that those boys didn’t know that what they were doing was wrong. Not the rape, not the pictures and not posting them on the ‘net. They just couldn’t resist bragging about their bad asses.

      March 31, 2013
  3. erik28 #

    As an educator, Saccoccia is likely a mandated reporter, which in many states relates to suspicion of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment, regardless of whether or not it happened directly within the scope of the mandated reporter’s professional work.

    March 26, 2013
  4. BKing #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, We’re scraping the bottom of the gene pool with these characters. geez.

    March 26, 2013
  5. Peter Hindrup #

    Anybody who witnesses, or has evidence of an offence causing harm to other people is under an obligation to report the incident, if not actually require to under the Law — certainly wold be in some countries.

    As for this guy being ‘moral’, ‘decent’ or any other such terms that have been used, it shows a woeful ignorance and lack of moral understanding.

    Sack him? Jail him would be a better option.

    March 26, 2013
  6. Mr Pibb #

    Everything about this article is 100% false. Twitter banter between 2 scared juveniles is not proof of anything. When someone testifies that they heard or saw Reno do these things I may change my mind. You can not send a person up the river with tweets from convicted felons. Please post a piece of evidence OTHER than teen tweets which proves Reno committed a crime, wait… you can not.

    March 26, 2013
  7. Tsu Dho Nimh #

    “the football program’s 27 coaches”

    TWENTY-SEVEN COACHES? How many math and reading coaches do they have?

    March 26, 2013
  8. Edward N. Vim #

    Scary that such a ‘rape culture’ exists, scarier that so many Steubenville residents are so supportive of it. Their lack of empathy and what a civilized society should strive to be is a really sad reflection of American culture.

    March 27, 2013
  9. I guarantee you this isn’t the first rape the coach has covered up.

    March 27, 2013
  10. Sub-Commander Z #

    @Mr Pibb #

    Everything about this article is 100% false. Twitter banter between 2 scared juveniles is not proof of anything. When someone testifies that they heard or saw Reno do these things I may change my mind. You can not send a person up the river with tweets from convicted felons.

    The tweets from now-convicted felon Trent Mays are not direct evidence of any actions by Coach Sac; they are, however, evidence that he believed that the Coach would ‘take care of it’. I would argue that this notion did not spontaneously arise in the mind of Trent Mays — there had to be something to lead him to this belief. I believe that if Jane Hanlin had been left in charge of prosecuting this case, that it all would have quietly gone away, and no one would have faced trial, let alone punishment.

    Let’s not forget Jane Hanlin’s intevention in the West Virginia trial of Branko Busic — her intervention as a character witness was largely responsible for Busic being given probation, instead of a multi-year jail sentence.

    Please post a piece of evidence OTHER than teen tweets which proves Reno committed a crime, wait… you can not.

    What we have yet to see is any evidence that Coach Sac followed the law, and reported his suspicions to the the Steubenville police, or the County Sheriff. As a school employee, Coach Sac is REQUIRED by Ohio Law to report any such incidents. Failure to report is a criminal offense. If Coach Sac did, indeed, report this crime to the authorities, then this would likely have come out at trial, but it did not. If Coach Sac had reported this crime to either the County Sheriff or the Steubenville PD, there would be a record of it. No such record has yet come to light. The Coach’s only defense to a charge of failure to report would be to provide evidence that he did report — otherwise he is guilty.

    March 27, 2013
  11. John Brown #

    BS….You miss the point in supporting a team with a culture of do what you want. Why did the OHSAA call East Liverpool high school on pay to play allegations 2 days after it came to light and players were suspended and the coach fired? Does not rape and players present warrant at least suspension in the OHSAA’s eyes. Big Red knows underage drinking went on with many players yet no players present were ever suspended going into the season. Does that not violate the State or the High schools code of conduct. That is right the only code of conduct for Big Red players is win. Why does the untouchable Big Red Program extend even to the OHSAA? I ask those not in Big Red worship mode to take the silent OHSAA commissioners to task to do their jobs. Why shades of treatment. Rape and drinking vs $5.00 for a good play when viewing films…..You should be ashamed in the Big Red nation and the OHIO public should be outraged.

    March 27, 2013
  12. Tyron Mackenthun #

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    April 2, 2013
  13. Sandusky had supporters as well. So does every seriel killer. It only shows that there is work to be done to educate the less intelegent on how a civilized society should live. I love how they quote the bible “Don’t judge” when in fact they are “judging” this person a great man even though he appears to have committed a horric act of denying juctice for a young rape victim.

    April 2, 2013
  14. Krista #

    This man is responsible. A text message from Trent Mays sent to the victim said “Coach said what I did to you is rape.” That was read during the trial. So he knew what they did and yet chose to do nothing. If that were my daughter and I found out an adult knew yet did nothing I would be demanding for his termination.

    May 7, 2013

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