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from www.nydailynews.com – The two teenage Steubenville, Ohio football players accused of raping a 16-year-old West Virginia girl during a series of alcohol-fueled parties last summer were found guilty Sunday morning by Special Judge Thomas Lipps, who announced his ruling in juvenile court by saying that both defendants “are hereby adjudicated delinquents beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged.”
The verdict is the equivalent of a guilty verdict in adult court, Lipps said in Steubenville, as the defendants and their attorneys wiped away tears and members of their families began to cry. The case attracted national attention for the way social media spurred the prosecution and sparked outrage over the episode.
“I came in early this morning and closely examined all of the evidence and re-read all the text messages. Many of the things that we learned during this trial, that our children were saying and doing, were profane, were ugly,” said Lipps, who then listened to pleas for leniency from Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, their lawyers and family members.
The judge then issued his ruling on sentencing, sending Mays, who was also found guilty of disseminating a nude photo of a minor, to a minimum of two years in a juvenile correctional facility. Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year, but like Mays could be in detention until he is 21.
The judge said that the Ohio Department of Youth services will rule on whether the two boys will be detained longer, Judge Lipps said, adding it will depend on their behavior and rehabilitation.
Mays and Richmond will be credited for the time they had served before the trial.
Lipps heard the juvenile case – which included four days of graphic testimony, much of which had found its way to social media in the days following the incident – without a jury and issued his verdict as many in the old Ohio factory town near the West Virginia border were heading to church.
During the past week, prosecutors laid out their case, arguing that both Mays and Richmond, the quarterback and wide receiver, respectively, on the storied Steubenville High School football team, used their hands to penetrate the 16-year-old girl.
Mays also faced a child pornography charge because he took photos of the victim that were later posted on social media.
Defense attorneys for the two male teens claimed that the sexual contact was consensual.
The case drew international attention for the horrific nature of the allegations and for the manner in which the alleged crimes unfolded via social media. The case also shined a spotlight on a tiny Midwest steel town caught in an economic decline, where the “Big Red” football program is revered by locals.
Last Aug. 11 and 12, the girl attended a series of parties around Steubenville, accompanying Mays and Richmond. She became more intoxicated as the night wore on, according to witness testimony, and in one of the lurid images that went viral soon after the parties, the girl is seen being carried by her wrists and ankles.
Special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said in her opening remarks that the girl was “somebody who was too impaired to say no, somebody who was too impaired to say stop.”
Mark Cole, a teammate of Mays and Richmond who was granted immunity by prosecutors, testified Friday that he videotaped Mays penetrating the victim with his finger during a car ride that night, but deleted the video the next morning.
Another witness said Richmond penetrated the victim while she was in the basement of a home where another party was held.
There were tens of thousands of text messages read in court, including those between the victim and one of her friends, in which she wrote, “OMG, please tell me this isn’t true.” In that same exchange with the male friend, the victim wrote that she had not given consent.
“This case isn’t about YouTube videos,” Hemmeter said in her closing arguments Saturday. “This case isn’t about social media. … It is about a 16-year-old girl who was taken advantage, toyed with and humiliated. And it’s for [the defendants] to pay for what they did.”
The victim also took the stand Saturday and said she was “embarrassed and scared, and I did not know what to think because I could not remember anything.” She said that over the next two days after that night, she pieced together what had happened with the help of friends who showed her a video posted on YouTube and a picture that had circulated of her in the basement lying naked.
Hemmeter led the testimony of the girl, who testified for two hours about how she discovered what happened that night and how Mays begged her in text messages not to press charges for fear that he would be kicked off the football team.
“He was just, like, freaking out,” the girl testified Saturday. “He kept asking, ‘Are you going to tell the police?’ He was trying to get me not to tell anyone.”
In one text, Mays admitted taking the picture of her naked in the basement, with his semen on top of her, but said that he did not know how the photograph had made its way onto social media.
He claimed the semen was the result of consensual sex.
He told her in one text message, “I’ll just never do anything nice for you again.”
Later, he texted that he was “about to get kicked off my football team.”
In earlier testimony Saturday, two former friends of the girl told the court in testimony for the defense that she had a reputation as a liar. An expert defense witness also said the girl may have had enough alcohol to have a memory lapse, implying she could have consented to having sex but did not remember doing so.