Verdict forthcoming Sunday morning
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) – The trial of two Ohio high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl ended Saturday with the judge saying he would issue his verdict the next day.
Judge Thomas Lipps said he will announce his decision Sunday morning after reviewing evidence presented over four days in the case against 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond.
Defense attorneys argued the state didn’t prove their clients raped the West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer. But prosecutors said the evidence, including text messages, testimony, and photographs, was overwhelming.
The 16-year-old girl testified she was drinking that night and couldn’t remember what happened. She said she woke up naked in a strange house after leaving the party with Mays.
If found delinquent, the two could be held in juvenile jail until they turn 21.
Mays and Richmond are charged with digitally penetrating the accuser, 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.
The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
The girl took the stand Saturday in the nonjury trial and said she remembers drinking at a party last August, 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. Her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing, she testified.
“It was really scary, really scary,” she said. “I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything.”
She recalled being in a car later with Mays and Richmond and asking them what happened.
“They kept telling me I was a hassle and they took care of me,” she testified. “I thought I could trust him (Mays) until I saw the pictures and video.”
She said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself and a video made that night. She said she suspected she had been drugged because she couldn’t explain being as intoxicated as defense witnesses have said she was.
Earlier Saturday, defense attorneys went after the character and credibility of the alleged victim, calling witnesses to the stand to accommodate their schedule, although the prosecution had not yet rested. Two former friends of the girl testified that the accuser had a history of drinking heavily and was known to lie about things.
West Virginia high school student Kelsey Weaver said the accuser told her what happened two days after the alleged attack then, sometime afterward, told Weaver she couldn’t remember what happened.
“So two different versions?” asked Mays’ attorney Adam Nemann.
“Yes,” Weaver replied.
Earlier, Weaver testified that the accuser was flirting at the party with Richmond.
Both Weaver and schoolmate Gianna Anile testified they were angry at the accuser because she was drinking heavily at the party and rolling around on the floor. They said they tried unsuccessfully to get her to stop drinking.
Anile said she also tried to get her friend to stay at the party rather than leave with others, including the two defendants.
“When I told her not to leave, I was trying to, like, pull her back into the party. She was trying to shrug me off,” Anile testified. “She kind of hit me.”
The day after the party, when Anile and another friend picked up the accuser from the house where she’d stayed, the accuser said she had no memory of the night before, Anile testified.
“‘We didn’t have sex, I swear,'” Anile said, describing the accuser’s comment.
The accuser said in her later testimony that she does not remember making that statement, nor being photographed as she was carried by Mays and Richmond, an image that stirred up the community as it spread on social media sites. Others have testified the photo was a joke and the girl was conscious when it was taken.
Testimony Friday from three teenage boys granted immunity incriminated the defendants.
Mark Cole, Evan Westlake and Anthony Craig said the West Virginia girl was drunk and didn’t seem to know what was happening to her that night. They said she was digitally penetrated in a car and later on a basement floor.
Cole testified that he took a video of Mays and the girl in the car, then deleted it later that morning. He testified he saw Mays unsuccessfully try to have the girl perform oral sex on him in the basement of Cole’s house.
Westlake testified he saw Richmond’s encounter with the girl in the basement, as did Craig. Westlake also confirmed that he filmed a 12-minute video, later passed around widely online, in which another student joked about the attack.
Craig testified that he saw Richmond’s hand in the “crotch region” of the girl, a less descriptive version than he gave last fall in another hearing.
If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail until they turn 21.
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 does not generally identify people who say they were victims of sex crimes.