Sunday, March 17, 2013

Verdict looms in Steubenville high school rape trial

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins, The Associated Press

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.

 The trial of two Ohio high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl resumed on Saturday. NBC's Ron Allen reports.

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.

YouTube video
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.

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.

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