2 Steubenville, Ohio H.S. football players convicted of rape

Outrage in case spurred along by social media

Ma’lik Richmond told the victim and her family, ‘‘I had not intended to do anything like this.”
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Ma’lik Richmond told the victim and her family, ‘‘I had not intended to do anything like this.”

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Two high school football stars were found guilty Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl last August, in a case that drew wide attention for the way social media spurred the initial prosecution and later helped galvanize national outrage over the episode.

The town’s obsession over its football team, many said, had shielded other teenagers who did little or nothing to protect the girl.

One football player, Trent Mays, 17, who had been a quarterback on the powerhouse Steubenville High School football team, was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system, while the other, Ma’lik Richmond, 16, who played wide receiver, 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.

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Mays’s 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, both boys broke down and sobbed. Richmond turned to his lawyer, Walter Madison, and said, ‘‘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.’’

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Trent Mays, 17, also apologized.

Richmond then walked over to where the victim and her family were sitting and said, ‘‘I had not intended to do anything like this. I’m sorry to put you through this,’’ before he broke down, unable to speak any more, and embraced a court officer.


The judge found that both boys had used their fingers to penetrate the girl while she was so drunk in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, 2012, that she lacked the cognitive ability to give her consent for sex.

A picture that was circulated around classmates the day after the assault showed the victim naked and passed out. Under Ohio law, the definition of rape includes digital penetration.

In sentencing the boys, Lipps described much of the evidence as ‘‘profane and ugly’’ and said that rape was among the gravest of crimes. He also said that the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers talk to their friends, conduct themselves when alcohol is present, and in ‘‘how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.’’

On the witness stand on Saturday, the girl testified that during a roughly six-hour period when prosecutors said the rapes occurred that she had no memory of anything aside from a brief vomiting episode.

She said she woke up the next morning naked in a basement living room — with no idea where she was or how she got there — surrounded by Mays, Richmond, and another boy, and unable to find her underwear, shoes, earrings, or phone.


When the prosecutor handed her one picture of herself from that night that she had not previously seen, she broke down in tears.

The verdict came after four days of testimony that was notable for how Ohio prosecutors and criminal forensics investigators analyzed hundreds of text messages from more than a dozen cellphones and created something like a real-time accounting of the events surrounding the incident and aftermath.

Through the prosecution’s reconstruction and reading aloud of these messages, Lipps heard Mays in texts from his cellphone state that he had used his fingers to penetrate the girl, who he also referred to in a separate message as ‘‘like a dead body.’’

In the end, the most powerful evidence may have been the two hours of testimony on Saturday from the 16-year-old girl herself.

One state prosecutor, Marianne Hemmeter, led the girl through what seemed a carefully crafted narrative that combined the girl’s own testimony with the text messages.

Together, they told a story of the girl waking up confused, naked, shamed, and worried, and then finding out that day that many of her friends had an idea what had happened to her or had even seen a picture of her naked the previous night.

Throughout the next day, the girl began to reconstruct an idea of what may have occurred, using her friends and accounts of the night that were posted on social media, including an infamous YouTube video of the event, which she said she could only bear to watch for a minute.

Then, the girl testified, she came to realize that Mays — who maintained all along that he took care of her while she was drunk and that they had only had non-penetrative consensual sex — had in reality done far more despite his insistences to the contrary.

‘‘This is the most pointless thing,’’ Mays said in one text message to the girl. ‘‘I’m going to get in trouble for something I should be getting thanked for taking care of you.’’

But after a while, the girl made clear that she was not having any more of it, telling Mays in another text message exchange: ‘‘It’s on YouTube. I’m not stupid. Stop texting me.’’