Two Ohio high school footballers guilty of rape

Monday 18 March 2013 17.22
The case roiled the community amid allegations that more students should have been charged
The case roiled the community amid allegations that more students should have been charged

Two members of a high school football team in the US state of Ohio have been found guilty of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl.

Steubenville High School students Trent Mays, 16, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison.

Mays was sentenced to another year for taking pictures of the naked victim.

The case came to light via a barrage of text messages, social media posts and online photos and video that drew global attention.

The two teens broke down in tears after the verdict was read and later apologised to the victim.

Richmond's father, Nathaniel, also asked that the victim's family "forgive Malik and Trent for the pain they put you through".

The two were charged with abusing the West Virginia girl, first in the back seat of a moving car after an alcohol-fuelled party on 11 August, and then in the basement of a house.

The case roiled the community amid allegations that more students should have been charged.

Ohio's attorney general has pledged to look into those accusations.

Protesters who sought guilty verdicts stood outside the courthouse yesterday morning, their arms linked, some wearing masks.

Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter criticised the efforts by hacker collective Anonymous to publicise the case, saying the extra attention led to a chilling effect on those willing to testify.

The trial opened last week with prosecutors trying to show that the girl was so drunk she could not have been a willing participant that night.

Defence attorneys called testimony from witnesses who would indicate that the girl, though drunk, knew what she was doing.

The teenage girl testified Saturday that she could not recall what happened the night of the attack, but remembered waking up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party.

The girl said she recalled drinking, leaving the party holding hands with Mays and vomiting later.

When she woke up, she said she discovered her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing, she testified.

The girl said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself taken that night, along with a video that made fun of her and the alleged attack.

She said she suspected she had been drugged because she could not explain being as intoxicated as defence witnesses said she was.

Evidence introduced at the trial included graphic text messages sent by numerous students after the night of the party.

In sentencing the teens, Judge Thomas Lipps urged everyone who had witnessed what happened in the case "to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends".