Steubenville juveniles to remain in custody

STEUBENVILLE – After hearing three of their classmates testify that they witnessed two 16-year-old Steubenville High School students perform sex acts on an intoxicated juvenile female, a judge on Friday ruled that the pair would remain incarcerated while awaiting a future hearing.

The 10:30 a.m. hearing in their case was delayed Friday after defense attorney Walter Madison filed a motion to have the media excluded. Press agencies and their attorneys quickly prepared for a 3 p.m. hearing on that motion, and visiting Judge Thomas Lipps ultimately ruled that the press would be permitted to attend Friday’s hearing as well as future proceedings in the case.

Lipps later said the defendants will remain in the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center pending a Nov. 1 hearing to determine if they will be tried on charges of rape and kidnapping as adults or juveniles. One of the defendants is facing an additional charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.

All three witnesses said they, the defendants and the alleged victim were among high school students at an unsupervised party on Aug. 11 at a Steubenville home, where many of the underage attendees were drinking alcohol. Witnesses recalled anywhere between 30 and 50 people being at the home.

At one point, the alleged victim left the home with the defendants and one of the witnesses, the witness testified. The boy said although the girl’s friends wanted her to stay at the home, she made an independent decision to leave with him and the defendants.

The alleged victim was vomiting throughout the night and was in various stages of lucidity, witnesses said. She had to be carried from place to place during the night, they added, with one instance in which one of the defendants was carrying her by her hands while the other held her legs.

While driving in the car, one of the defendants began to perform a sex act on the girl, a witness testified.

He said the girl was not saying much, but what she did say was slurred or unintelligible.

Two other witnesses testified that they saw the girl completely naked on the floor of another home, while one of the defendants performed a sex act on her.

One of the witnesses admitted to recording a video of one of the alleged incidents, while another said he used his cell phone to capture a photograph of the alleged victim while she was nude. The prosecution announced the only reason those two boys were not charged as well was because investigators were unable to recover the evidence from their phones.

“Do you understand how lucky you are?” Assistant Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter asked of one witness.

Steubenville police Detective Jean-Phillippe Rigaud, the department’s sole juvenile detective, launched the investigation after the alleged victim’s parents reported the crime on Aug. 14. He testified that the alleged victim said she does not remember anything after leaving the house party. He also admitted to defense attorney Brian Duncan that the girl never explicitly reported to him she was raped or kidnapped, because she does not remember.

JoAnn Gibb, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Computer Forensic Specialist, said she analyzed data from about 15 cell phones that Steubenville police confiscated. She testified that two images, both nude photos of the victim, were discovered on one of the defendant’s phones and analysis showed the images had been sent to others.

Lipps ruled that the prosecution met its burden in proving probable cause on all the charges against the defendants, other than the kidnapping count. That ruling, however, technically has no bearing on future hearings nor the state’s ability to prosecute the defendants on all charges.

Defense attorney Adam Nemann addressed conjecture among the community that the alleged victim may have been drugged.

“There were blogs and articles about her being drugged,” he related. “There is no evidence of her being drugged, at all. These are young boys who were stupid and got drunk together. There was probably a lot of indiscretion on her part as well, although I’m not here to blame the victim.”

Hemmeter said the girl should not have been a victim, regardless of her condition that evening.

“The only thing (the victim) should have had to worry about that night and early the next morning,” Hammeter asserted, “was a horrible, horrible hangover. She shouldn’t be worried about proving what she doesn’t remember.

“She was a toy to them that night,” she said. “She was treated like a toy.”

“The things that our children get involved in,” Lipps lamented following closing statements from the parties.

According to Steubenville City Schools, the defendants were suspended from extracurricular activities, including sports, immediately following their Aug. 21 arrests. They were booked into the detention center the same day, where they have remained throughout the case.