Judge to Issue Verdict in Ohio Rape Case on Sunday
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (CNN) — A teenage girl at the center of an alleged rape by two Steubenville, Ohio, high school football players broke down in court Saturday (March 16) after being shown a picture of herself naked, saying she remembered little about the situation because she was drunk.
The 16 year old was the final witness in a trial that has captured national attention for the lurid text messages, cell phone pictures and videos and social media posts surrounding the alleged sexual abuse of the girl.
A judge is expected to hand down his decision Sunday at 9 a.m. in the trial of Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, who are accused of raping the girl during a series of end-of-summer parties in August 2012.
According to prosecutors, Richmond and Mays each penetrated the alleged victim’s vagina with their fingers, an act that constitutes rape under Ohio law.
Attorneys for the two boys say they are innocent. Mays also has been charged with disseminating a nude photo of a minor.
The girl testified that she remembered drinking at the first big party of the night and then holding Mays’ hand as she left with him, Richmond and others.
The next thing she remembers, she told the court, was waking up in the morning naked on a couch in an unfamiliar house. She covered herself with a blanket while she looked for her clothes. She testified she could not find her underwear, earrings or cell phone.
She testified she was “too embarrassed to ask what happened that night because I didn’t remember.”
The girl told the court she had a flashback memory of throwing up in a street somewhere sometime after she left the first party.
CNN’s policy is not to identify alleged victims of sexual assault. CNN is not naming the minors who are testifying but is identifying Mays and Richmond, whose names have been used by court officials, their attorneys and in multiple media accounts.
At the heart of the case is the question of whether the alleged victim was too drunk to understand what was happening to her and to consent.
Mays and Richmond are being tried before visiting Judge Tom Lipps, without a jury. The trial is moving quickly — and through the weekend — to accommodate the schedule of the judge.
If the two boys are convicted of the juvenile charges, they face the possibility of being jailed until they are 21.
Earlier in the day, attorneys for Mays and Richmond challenged the memory and integrity of the alleged victim, calling two of the 16-year-old girl’s former best friends to testify.
One witness, a 17-year-old, testified the alleged victim told her she believed she had been drugged the night of the alleged assault, an allegation the witness said she did not believe because the girl “lies about things.”
The teen witnesses, who described themselves as classmates and former best friends of the girl, told the court they saw the alleged victim drinking. She drank at least four shots of vodka, two beers and some of a slushy mixed with vodka, a 16-year-old witness said.
The defense attempted to question the two teens about the alleged victim’s past history, but the judge did not allow most of the line of questioning. Ohio, like most states, has a rape shield law that limits the amount of information of an alleged victim’s past that can be explored in court.
The 17-year-old witness said she picked the alleged victim up the next morning from someone’s home and asked her what happened.
In the car, the alleged victim said, “We didn’t have sex, I swear. I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember,” the teen testified.
On Friday, three teens, all self-described friends of the co-defendants, testified that they saw Mays and Richmond engage in sexual contact with the girl. All three have been granted immunity from prosecution.
One of the witnesses — identified as a 17-year-old Steubenville football player and wrestler — testified that he used his cell phone to record Mays putting his fingers inside the girl’s vagina during a drive from one party to another. He said he deleted the video the next morning when he realized it was wrong.
The teen also testified that Mays later attempted to have the girl perform a sex act on him in the basement of a home.
“She didn’t really respond to it,” he said.
Evan Westlake, 18, a Steubenville football and baseball player, told the judge on Friday that he saw Richmond digitally penetrate the girl in the basement.
When asked by prosecutors why he didn’t stop the incident, he said, “It wasn’t violent. I didn’t know exactly what rape was. I thought it was forcing yourself on someone.”
Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, challenged whether Westlake was trying to right a wrong through his testimony.
“I felt a lot of regret, difficult to face my family knowing they knew what I had done,” Westlake testified.
Anthony Craig, 18, also testified Friday that he saw Richmond digitally penetrate the girl in the basement.
“She wasn’t moving. She wasn’t talking. She wasn’t participating,” he said.
Craig also admitted taking a nude cell phone picture of the girl while she was in the basement and showing it to friends.
“It was stupid,” he said.
In earlier testimony, teens who attended some of the booze-soaked parties testified the girl appeared to be drunk, stumbling and slurring words. But on cross-examination some said she seemed able to walk and answer questions.
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