Judge to issue verdict in Ohio school rape case
- Article by: ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
- Associated Press
- March 17, 2013 - 1:59 AM
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - A judge planned to announce his verdict Sunday in the case of two high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer.
Prosecutors say the drunken girl was taken advantage of and treated like a toy. Defense attorneys counter that the girl has a history of heavy drinking and telling lies.
Testimony concluded Saturday night with the accuser recalling that she drank at a party in August but couldn't remember what had happened when she awoke the next day naked in a strange house.
Testimony in the four-day nonjury trial against Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond ended after the judge heard from the 16-year-old West Virginia girl and others in the juvenile court case.
If found delinquent — the juvenile court equivalent of guilty — the two defendants could be jailed until they turn 21, when they would be released.
Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, are charged with digitally penetrating the girl, first in a car and then in the basement of a house, while out partying Aug. 12. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. They maintain their innocence.
The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and has led to questions about the influence of the popular football team, a source of pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
On the stand Saturday, the girl said she remembers drinking at the party, leaving the party holding hands with Mays, then throwing up later. The next thing she remembers is waking up with no clothes on in a strange house, she said. She said she felt scared and embarrassed. Her phone, earrings, shoes and underwear were missing, she testified.
The accuser said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends, saw a photo of herself from that night and watched a YouTube video in which a student cracks jokes about the alleged rape just hours afterward. She said she suspected she had been drugged because she couldn't explain being as intoxicated as defense witnesses have said she was.
The girl testified in a quiet, sometimes hesitant voice, and broke down only once: when prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter showed her a second photo of herself naked that she hadn't seen.
Richmond observed the girl carefully as she spoke, while Mays, as he often did during the trial, fidgeted, appearing not to focus on any one thing in the courtroom.
Prosecutors told the judge in closing arguments that the evidence was overwhelming. Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors hadn't proved guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Earlier Saturday, defense attorneys went after the accuser's character, calling two former friends of hers to the stand. They testified that the girl had a history of drinking heavily and was known to lie about things.
West Virginia high school student Kelsey Weaver said the accuser told her what happened two days after the party, then, sometime afterward, told Weaver she couldn't remember what had happened.
Earlier, Weaver testified that the accuser was flirting at the party with Richmond.
Both Weaver and schoolmate Gianna Anile testified they were angry at the accuser because she was drinking heavily at the party and rolling around on the floor. They said they tried unsuccessfully to get her to stop drinking.
Anile said she also tried to get her friend to stay at the party rather than leave with others, including the two defendants.
The day after the party, when Anile and another friend picked up the accuser from the house where she'd stayed, the accuser said she had no memory of the night before, Anile testified.
The accuser said in her later testimony that she doesn't remember making that statement or being photographed as she was carried by Mays and Richmond, an image that stirred up the community as it spread on social media sites. Others have testified the photo was a joke and the girl was conscious when it was taken.
Testimony Friday from three teenage boys granted immunity from prosecution incriminated the defendants.
The Associated Press normally doesn't identify minors charged in juvenile court, but Mays and Richmond have been widely identified in news coverage, and their names have been used in open court. The AP also doesn't generally identify people who say they were victims of sex crimes.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.
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