Ohio football players found guilty in Steubenville rape case
Published Sunday, March 17, 2013 7:23AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, March 17, 2013 4:59PM EDT
Two teenage Ohio football players who were found guilty of raping an intoxicated16-year-old West Virginia girl after an alcohol-laced party last summer have been sentenced to at least one year in juvenile jail.
Steubenville High School students Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were charged with digitally penetrating the girl, first in the back of a moving vehicle after the party on Aug. 12, and then in the basement of a house.
Judge Thomas Lipps, who announced his ruling in a juvenile court on Sunday, determined both Mays and Richmond were delinquent, the equivalent of a guilty verdict in adult court. The teens were tried in a judge-only trial.
The two teens can be held in juvenile jail until they turn 21, and have been ordered to avoid contact with the victim until that age.
Mays was sentenced to an additional year in jail on a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
Both Mays and Richmond appeared visibly stunned by the verdict, breaking down in tears. They later apologized to the victim and football community.
Richmond cried so hard in the courtroom as he spoke that he had to be helped back to his seat.
Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, also spoke outside the courtroom asking the victim’s family to “forgive Ma’lik and Trent for the pain they put you through.”
The accuser’s mother said after the trial that the accused had a “lack of any moral code.”
“You were your own accuser, through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on,” she said.
On Sunday, protestors, some wearing masks, stood outside the courthouse as they waited for the verdict to be delivered.
The case drew national and international attention, dividing the small eastern Ohio town of about 18,000 amid accusations of a cover-up to protect the celebrated Big Red football team, a source of pride in the community. Many people also believed more students should have been charged in the case.
Public interest in the case ballooned earlier this year with the online circulation of an unverified video purportedly showing the rape of the girl by the two football stars. The more than 12- minute-long video was apparently released by hackers who alleged more people were involved in the incident and should be held accountable.
Evidence presented in court included thousands of text messages sent by students following the party that included graphic descriptions of sexual activity. As he handed down his sentence, Lipps issued a warning to students “to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends.”
The trial opened last week with defence attorneys going after the character and credibility of the girl to show that although she was drunk, she knew what she was doing. Two former friends of the victim testified that she had a history of heavy drinking and was known to lie.
On Saturday, the teenage girl testified that she did not remember what happened the night of the attack but recalls waking up naked in a house.
“It was really scary,” the court heard. “I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything.”
She said she remembered drinking heavily that night, leaving the party holding Mays’ hand and then throwing up later. When she woke up, she testified that her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing.
The victim said she believed she was drugged and assaulted when she later discovered graphic text messages sent by students, a photo of herself taken the night of the party, along with a video that made fun of her and the attack.
“They treated her like a toy,” prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said.
The photograph led to accusations that three other boys, two of them members of the high school team, were witnesses that night and did not try to stop the attack, but instead recorded it.
The three boys were granted immunity to testify, fueling months of online accusations of a cover-up to protect the team.
Law enforcement officials have denied the cover-up accusations.
After the verdict was handed down Sunday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine pledged to convene a grand jury to probe whether anyone else should face charges.
"This community desperately needs to have this behind them, but this community also desperately needs to know justice was done and that no stone was left unturned," he said.
With files from the Associated Press