Ohio high school footballers convicted of rape
Two teenage football stars found guilty in case that drew national attention
Trent Mays (17) enters the courtroom in Steubenville, Ohio yesterday. Photograph: Keith Srakocic/Reuters
Two high school football stars in the US were found guilty yesterday of raping a 16-year-old girl last summer in a case that drew national attention for the way social media spurred the initial prosecution and later helped galvanize national outrage.
Because the victim did not remember what had happened, scores of text messages and cellphone pictures provided much of the evidence. They were proof as well, some said, that Steubenville High School's powerhouse football team held too much sway over other teenagers, who documented and traded pictures of the assault while doing little or nothing to protect the girl.
One of the football players, Trent Mays (17), was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system, while the other, Ma'lik Richmond (16) was sentenced to serve at least one year. Both could end up in juvenile jail until they are 21, at the discretion of the state Department of Youth Services.
Mays' minimum sentence is twice as long as Richmond's because he was found to be delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt - the juvenile equivalent of guilty - not just of rape but also of distributing a nude image of a minor.
After Judge Thomas Lipps read his decision in Juvenile Court, both boys sobbed. Richmond told his lawyer, Walter Madison, "My life is over."
Mays apologized to the victim by name, as well as to her family and the community. "No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken," he said. Richmond then walked toward the family and said: "I had not intended to do anything like this. I'm sorry to put you through this." After that, he broke down, unable to speak, and embraced a court officer.
The judge found that both boys assaulted the girl last August while she was so drunk that she lacked the cognitive ability to give her consent for sex. A picture that was circulated among classmates later that day showed the victim naked and passed out.
Mr Lipps described much of the evidence as "profane and ugly." In sentencing the boys, he said rape was among the gravest of crimes and noted that they could have been tried as adults and faced far harsher punishments. He also said the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers conduct themselves when alcohol is present and in "how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today."
The trial also exposed the behavior of other teenagers, who wasted no time spreading photos and text messages with what many in the community felt was callousness or cruelty. And that aspect of the case may not be complete. The Ohio attorney general, Mike DeWine, said after the verdict that he would convene a grand jury next month to finish the investigation. In an interview, Mr DeWine said that while it was not clear that more people would face charges, prosecutors might consider offenses that include obstruction of justice, failure to report a felony and failure to report child abuse. State officials have interviewed almost 60 people - students, coaches, school officials and parents - but 16, most of them juveniles, have refused to speak to investigators.
The verdict came after four days of testimony notable for how Ohio investigators analyzed hundreds of text messages from more than a dozen mobile phones and created something like a real-time accounting of the assault.
Some text messages suggested that Mays had grown increasingly worried within a day or two, urging a friend to curb distribution of a video related to the assault. He also seemed to try to orchestrate a cover-up, telling a friend, "Just say she came to your house and passed out."
Finally, the messages showed Mays pleading with the girl not to press charges because doing so would damage his football career - even as the girl grew angry that he seemed to care more about football than her welfare. On Saturday, the girl testified that for the roughly six-hour period during which the rapes occurred, she had no memory of anything aside from a brief vomiting episode. She said she had woken up the next morning naked in a basement living room surrounded by Mays, Richmond and another boy, with no idea where she was or how she had gotten there and unable to find her underwear, shoes, earrings or phone.
The New York Times