The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

March 18, 2013

Rape trial over, Ohio city remains under scrutiny


Associated Press

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — The ordeal of an eastern Ohio community roiled by allegations of rape against two high school football players is far from over, despite the teens’ conviction for the crime and their sentence to juvenile prison terms.

The announcement of the verdict was barely an hour old Sunday when state Attorney General Mike DeWine said he was continuing his investigation and would consider charges against anyone who failed to speak up after the attack last summer, a group that could include other teens, parents, coaches and school officials.

A grand jury will meet in mid-April to consider evidence gathered by investigators from dozens of interviews, including with the football team’s 27 coaches.

Text messages introduced at the trial suggested the head coach was aware of the rape allegation early on. DeWine said coaches are among officials required by state law to report child abuse. The coach and the school district have repeatedly declined to comment.

“I’ve reached the conclusion that this investigation cannot be completed, simply cannot be completed, that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury,” DeWine said.

The attorney general, Ohio’s top law enforcement official, also said the rape was not an isolated problem specific to Steubenville. Sexual assaults occur every Friday and Saturday night across the country, DeWine said, calling it “a societal problem.”

Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison in a case that has rocked this Rust Belt city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville High team, which has won nine state championships. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked.

They can be held until they turn 21. The two broke down in tears after a Juvenile Court judge delivered his verdict. They later apologized to the victim and the community, Richmond struggling to speak through his sobs.

“My life is over,” he said as he collapsed in the arms of his lawyer.

The crime, which took place after a party last summer, shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online. In fact, the case came to light via a barrage of morning-after text messages, social media posts and online photos and video.

Mays and Richmond were charged with penetrating the West Virginia girl with their fingers, first in the back seat of a moving car after a mostly underage drinking party on Aug. 11, and then in the basement of a house.

“They treated her like a toy,” prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said.