Rising high school football stars Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, were tried and convicted of raping an unconscious girl during a party. Photographs and videos shared on social media sites depict the athletes carrying the alleged victim around and other teens laughing and joking about the rape of the “dead girl.”
Trent Mays was charged in juvenile court with rape and disseminating photographs of a nude minor. Richmond was charged with rape. Since the case is under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction, the boys’ maximum sentence will be difficult to determine. Ohio is among a few other states the uses a “blended” sentencing process with juveniles, allowing courts to sentence juveniles convicted of serious offenses to adult prison or probation in addition to a juvenile sentence. Blended sentences are taken on a case-by-case basis, and there is a lot of variance among different defendants and convictions.
Update: Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were found guilty March 17, 2013, and sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison. They can be held until they are 21-years-old.
Tweets and other social media posts collected by blogger Alexandra Goddard and exposed in prinniefied.com
Her parents worried when their sixteen-year-old daughter came home sick and disoriented. They thought she had just spent the night at a friend’s house. The next day, their daughter had no real recollection of the night before, but pictures, videos, Facebook status updates and Tweets all posted to the Internet, allegedly by her peers quickly filled in the blanks.
There were pictures of her only partially clothed, with athletic boys hoisting her up by the wrists and the ankles. Videos of her naked and unconscious while boys penetrated her. Videos of boys talking and laughing about her, calling her “deader than Trayvon Martin,” raped “quicker than Mike Tyson,” and by more than “the Duke Lacrosse Team.”
There were tweets that the “song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana,” and that she “deserved to be peed on.” There were Facebook statuses talking about what a drunk slut she was.
Her family pieced it together as best they could, put whatever they could find on a flash drive, and took it to the Steubenville police that night. One day later, the local newspaper published an article with even more detail about the events of that night.
The police treated the young Jane Doe with some skepticism. The boys in question were star high school football players, she was a girl from Weirton, West Virginia, a town across the river. She told the police she was drugged and raped. The police told her that too much time had passed for her to take a toxicology test and that the shower she had taken meant they could not do a rape examination.
Without physical evidence, and without Jane Doe’s independent recollection of events, all the police really had to go on was social media – but there was a lot of that. It seemed like every kid in the county had been partying that night, and many of them left a digital trail.
When the police asked kids to come forward with information about the rape, though, all that evidence began to disappear. The kids who had allegedly caught the acts on their iPhones deleted the photos and videos.
Tweets and status updates vanished. Almost no one thought to preserve the evidence with screenshots.
The evidence that remained was bad enough. On the night of August 11, following a football victory for the Steubenville Big Red, the celebrated high school team, all the young people in the town went partying. Jane Doe arrived with friends and quickly became intoxicated, and by 10 or 10:30 p.m. witnesses say she was stumbling and slurring her words.
At the probable cause hearing, witnesses testified that partygoers taunted and jeered Jane Doe while a baseball player dared them to urinate on her.
At some point, members of the football team including quarterback Trent Mays, 16, and wide receiver Ma’Lik Richmond, also 16, drove the now-unconscious Jane Doe to different parties and different houses. One witness testified that the football players carried her out of the house.
One player who is not a prosecution witness testified that he was in the backseat of a car with Mays and Jane Doe. He videotaped Mays flashing the girl’s breasts and penetrating her with his fingers. He shared the video with another person before he deleted it. He took another photo of Mays and Richmond sexually assaulting the girl, which he showed to others before also deleting it.
Video footage from that night shows a naked girl, out cold, surrounded by laughing football players saying “she’s dead” and “I’m going to join the rape crew.”
A week after her complaint, the police arrested Mays and Richmond, both teenage football heroes with bright ballplaying futures ahead. The boys were charged with kidnapping and rape, and Mays was charged with disseminating pictures of a nude minor.
The police did not, and still to this day have not, arrested the other kids who participated in or witnessed the assault. By all accounts, the alleged rape was relatively public. Horrifying videos and tweets reveal that many kids knew about what was going on. Many may have participated. None of those kids have been arrested or charged, and they all still play for their school’s football team.
To understand why so few have been charged with a crime that seems to have involved so many, it’s important to understand Steubenville’s football culture. Steubenville is a small town near the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia border. As steel mills and factories shut down and the town fell into economic depression, it went from an old-fashioned Midwestern town with good old-fashioned values to a lower-middle class town with a crime problem.
Like a real-life “Friday Night Lights,” high school football is everything in Steubenville, and their home team lives up to its reputation. The team has won nine state championships, including back-to-back undefeated seasons in 2005 and 2006. High school football is more important than college ball to the residents of Steubenville, who start tailgating at 9am for a game that starts at 7:30 pm.
In a town with more abandoned storefronts than new businesses, the team has a gorgeous new stadium that seats 10,000 fans – especially enormous considering the town’s population is 18,000. Big Red games are even televised, and the team’s slogan “Roll Red Roll” is prominently featured on Steubenville homes, businesses and community areas.
“Everybody around here goes to games on Friday nights, and I mean everybody — people come for miles,” said Jim Flanagan, 48, who grew up in the area. “It’s basically the small-town effect. People live and die based on Big Red because they usually win, and it makes everybody feel good about themselves when times are tough.”
Given that intensely pro-football climate, many in the town responded to Jane Doe’s rape allegations with distrust, accusing her of lying to bring down the team or the town itself. Her mother told the media that her family had received death threats from members of the community, and their neighborhood now received additional police patrols.
Nate Hubbard, 27, a Big Red volunteer coach, is one of those speaking out against Jane Doe’s allegations.
“The rape was just an excuse, I think,” said Hubbard.
“What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.”
A current player summed up the popular sentiment in a single Tweet: “Were not gonna let dumb s – – – like this mess up our state championship goal.”
But there’s only so far that community criticism can go in the face of what the kids themselves allegedly recorded and shared with the world that night.
Bloggers, crime-watchers and activists have played an enormous role in this case. They have promoted and publicized the statements, videos and images describing the assault. The cyber-activist group Anonymous, known for protesting wearing “V for Vendetta”-style Guy Fawkes masks, has promoted the names and identities of the boys who allegedly took to social media that night, the boys who have not been arrested or charged.
The integrity of Steubenville’s justice system has come under intense scrutiny. Already, the prosecuting attorney originally assigned to the case recused herself because she is the mother of a player on the football team, a boy who may have been present at the parties. The first judge assigned to the matter likewise recused himself due to his ties to the football community. The Ohio Attorney General has vehemently denied allegations that Mark Cole, Anthony Craig and Evan Westlake, three boys who were witnesses to the assault, testified at the probable cause hearing in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
Nor have the Steubenville police taken action against Michael Nodianos, the young man in the now-infamous video depicting, for twelve cringe-inducing minutes, his laughs, jokes and boasts about the rape of the “dead girl” that is currently going on. Bloggers have pointed out that it is a felony to fail to report a crime in Ohio.
Online, reports have also cropped up about rape allegations against the players that were previously filed with the police and never investigated. Anonymous and The Blogosphere seem convinced that there is a “culture of rape” among the Steubenville football players that goes completely unchecked.
The trial against Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond began on March 13. The kidnapping charges were dropped, and the case focused on the rape allegation. Both boys spent two months in jail before they were permitted house arrest. The trial was held in juvenile court, where it was governed by a different set of rules than normally seen in a criminal trial for adults. There was not a jury; the judge listened to all the evidence and made a decision himself. This process is less adversarial than a jury trial – there was not a lot of intimidating cross-examination, for example, since most of the 40 witnesses subpoenaed to testify will be minors.
Generally in juvenile cases, names of those under 18 are not publicized. However, because this particular case has been so criticized for being mishandled by the authorities, the judge has said that he wants it to be an open case, to show the naysayers, the cyber-activists and the community at large that the trial will be fair.
The two teenage football players were found guilty March 17, 2013, of rape and were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison. They can be held until they are 21-years-old.
Trent Mays – Trent Mays, 17, is from the nearby town of Bloomingdale, Ohio. He attended Steubenville High School specifically for their strong athletics program, and in addition to playing quarterback on the football team, he also wrestled.
Ma’Lik Richmond – Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, comes from a less privileged background than Mays. According to police, Richmond comes from a troubled home and has lived in Steubenville with guardians since he was eight. Richmond played wide receiver for Big Red and also played on the Steubenville High basketball and track teams.
Alexandra Goddard – The crime blogger, originally from Steubenville, who captured screenshots of some of the most offensive photographs and statements that were shared through social media. She took it upon herself to investigate the case and campaign for justice for the young Jane Doe, based on her personal knowledge of the Steubenville “boys will be boys” system of justice. Goddard was shocked that the incident was discussed on the Internet at all: “What normal person would even consider that posting the brutal rape of a young girl is something that should be shared with their peers?” Goddard wrote on her blog, prinniefied.com. “Do they think because they are Big Red players that the rules don’t apply to them?”
The family of one of the involved boys has attempted to sue Goddard for defamation. Goddard, who remains active on her blog, could not be found to be served with the lawsuit.
Anonymous and “Occupy Steubenville” – The activist hacker collective Anonymous has organized “Occupy Steubenville,” making the small town the epicenter of rallies and protests responding to the perceived lack of official action on this case and showing support for Jane Doe. They have published and publicized the names and identities of other minors who were allegedly at the parties who they believe should also be charged for their involvement.
Judge Thomas Lipps – Judge Lipps is a visiting judge from Hamilton County, assigned to this case because the Jefferson County judge who would have heard it in the normal course of events recused himself for having too many connections to the football program. Judge Lipps has made the unusual decision to have the juvenile trial broadcast to ensure transparency. He has also voiced concerns about witness intimidation.
William McCafferty – Police Chief McCafferty took over 11 years ago in response to the United States Department of Justice investigation into the Steubenville Police Department’s patterns of false arrest and excessive force. He has said that he does not want people to believe that the football players are getting away with crime and has said that if the players are committing crimes, no one is reporting them.“It’s always, ‘They said players are getting away with things,’ but when I ask who ‘they’ is, no one can tell me,” McCafferty said.
Reno “Coach Sac” Saccoccia – Coach Sac, as he’s known to his players, has coached two generations of football for Big Red and has won three state titles and, according to the football program’s website, 85 percent of his games. Saccoccia is the only person who can make decisions about whether his players should be punished for off-field transgressions by not playing. So far, he has not benched any of his players.
Coach Sac told the principal and school superintendent that since his players did not think they had done anything wrong on the night of the alleged rape, he had no basis to keep them from playing.
Saccoccia is notorious for responding violently to reporters asking about his decision not to discipline his players. According to several news sources, among them the New York Times, he threatened a reporter with: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”
Saccoccia also testified as a character witness for Mays and Richmond at the hearing where it was determined that they would be tried as juveniles, not adults.
Michael Nodiamos – Nodiamos is the young man who was caught in a twelve-minute video rant about the alleged victim, telling excruciating jokes about the sexual assault he believes is ongoing. He also tweeted various jokes about the event. He has not been charged for his involvement, and attorney general has said of Nodiamos that “viral videos do not equal a criminal charge.”
Adam Nemann – May’s attorney, a young but well-respected legal practitioner from Columbus, Ohio. According to Nemann’s website, “in 2009, the Central Ohio Association for Justice named Nemann the recipient of the Louisville Slugger Award, for outstanding courtroom advocacy. Capital Law School, Nemann’s alma mater, presented him with the 2010 Young Alumnus of the Year award. In addition to the law practice, Adam Nemann is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Capital University, teaching Forensic Evidence.” Nemann has called the case “unusual,” because of the lack of physical evidence and testimony from Jane Doe.
“The whole question is consent,” he said. “Was she conscious enough to give consent or not? We think she was. She gave out the pass code to her phone after the sexual assault was said to have occurred.”
Walter Madison – Richmond’s attorney, based out of Akron, Ohio. Madison is a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years of experience and dozens of criminal trials under his belt. He is also active in charitable organizations. “It’s an uphill battle because you’ve got social media going on and people formulating opinions, people who weren’t there and don’t know what happened,” said Richmond. “In a small community, it exponentially snowballs out of control. I think the scales are a bit unbalanced.”
Trial Begins In Ohio School Football Rape Case – Raw Video
Leaked Video Of Steubenville Rape Case
Leaked video of Michael Nodianos making hideous remarks about the alleged victim in the Steubenville rape case. Allegedly, this video was originally posted by Evan westlake with the title “Nodi Wylin About a Dead Girl” but taken down soon after.
Please be advised that this video contains extremely offensive and graphic descriptions of rape.
March 12, 2013: Trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow in this case, and the trial will take place in full view of the public eye. judge Lipps has made the unorthodox decision to allow media to film the trial, a rarity in juvenile cases. Because juveniles are afforded a heightened level of privacy in criminal cases – usually, last names are not used, for example – media are almost never allowed to access juvenile trials.
In this case, however, Judge Lipps clearly is trying to prove a point. The town of Steubenville has been widely criticized for the old boys club that seems to have given the football players preferential treatment. This judge wants to make the court proceedings totally transparent, to put an end to the naysayers.
Since the media has been covering this case extensively and the identities of the defendants are known, the privacy of the defendants is not as crucial as it might otherwise be in lower-profile juvenile cases. The identities of witnesses and the victim, however, will become public knowledge through this trial.
March 1, 2012: All of the legal writers at Wild About Trial are also practicing lawyers, and one thing we watch with great interest is the impact of social media on criminal cases. We’ve all had cases where the defendant was convicted or acquitted based on what someone else posted on a social networking site. We’ve all had cases where someone’s cell phone records and text messages sealed the case.
This case is especially interesting to us because it is a case that simply would not have existed before social media. Even five years ago, if a Jane Doe was gang-raped at a party by a bunch of football players, it would have just gone down as a rumor and no one, not even the police, would have investigated the crime further. Because the police in Steubenville apparently told Jane Doe that she had “washed off” the evidence and did not give her a rape examination, and because the girl herself doesn’t remember the night, there is no physical or testimonial evidence to establish a rape case.
We find it unusual that the Steubenville Police Department did not conduct a rape exam of Jane Doe. Even once an alleged rape victim has bathed or showered, it is possible to find evidence of rape trauma such as vaginal tearing.
In this way, social media is what might save this Jane Doe. Whatever happened to her that night was documented – not just by one or two people, but by dozens. At party after party, kids were taking pictures and videos, texting and tweeting, and the conversation kept coming around to the girl who was so intoxicated that she might have even been dead. Witnesses saw Mays and Richmond penetrate the unconscious girl – they didn’t just see it, they videotaped it.
However, at this point, the prosecution has a problem. The videos that explicitly show the rape no longer exist. The kids deleted them, maybe to protect the football players, maybe out of compassion for the girl. They can testify as to what they saw, but their accounts will all be tainted by the alcohol that flowed freely at the parties that night.
The accounts of the dozens of teens who saw some part of the alleged rape will be the entire case against Mays and Richmond. The boys’ attorneys don’t think it’s enough. The defense lawyers have said that, as in any rape case, the issue is whether Jane Doe consented. They will argue that she did consent, and that she was not as intoxicated as she appeared. They will also put forward some social media evidence of their own – Twitter posts and pictures from Jane Doe that they say shows that she was sexually active and promiscuous.
Defense counsel for Richmond and Mays will also continue to argue the lack of any physical evidence that Jane Doe was raped, and they will find any way possible to attack the credibility of those who testify against their clients.
Prior to the start of trial, Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, filed a motion for Jane Doe to be referred to as the accuser as opposed to the victim. Although that might seem heartless, it is actually a common and Constitutionally-appropriate request. In a rape case, where so much of the evidence is she said-he said, characterizing the alleged victim as “victim” from the first day of trial immediately sends the message that the rape did, in fact, occur, before the judge or jury has even begun to listen to the evidence.
The judge’s ruling that Jane Doe be referred to as the “alleged victim” seems to be a fair compromise.