Ohio AG Seeks Grand Jury Probe In Teen Rape Case

7:56 AM, Mar 18, 2013   |    comments
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, right, answers questions about the prosecution of two juveniles in a rape case during a news conference Sunday (AP)
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(USA TODAY) -- Two members of Steubenville's high school football team were found guilty Sunday of raping a drunken 16-year-old girl, but Ohio's attorney general says he will convene a grand jury next month to determine whether coaches, parents and other students broke the law, too.

"We're going to push this thing as fast as we can. Bring finality to this to determine if there's anybody else that should be charged and then the community needs to move on after that," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement.

Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond were charged with penetrating a West Virginia girl with their fingers in the back seat of a moving car after a mostly underage drinking party and then in the basement of a house.

Mays, 17, was sentenced to a minimum of two years in detention and a maximum of confinement until his 21st birthday.

His teammate Richmond, 16, was sentenced to a minimum of one year of detention or until his 21st birthday.

Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked.

Both teens broke down in tears after the verdict was read, later apologizing to the victim and the community for their actions.

"My life is over," Richmond said as he collapsed in the arms of his lawyer, according to the Associated Press.

The case, which gained international attention, led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the popular high school team, which has won nine state championships.

Three other boys, two of them on the football team, said they saw something happening the night of the incident and recorded it with their cellphones but did not intervene. They were granted immunity from prosecution.

During investigations, DeWine said they identified 43 people, nearly all juveniles, who attended one of the parties last August where the defendants and the victim were. Twenty-seven of them had been interviewed, but 16 "refused to cooperate, giving various reasons," the Los Angeles Times reported.

Among those interviewed were the owners of one of the houses where parties were held that night, the high school principal, and the football team's 27 coaches, many of them volunteers.

Text messages introduced at the trial suggested the head coach was aware of the rape allegation early on. DeWine said coaches are among officials required by state law to report child abuse. The coach and the school district have repeatedly declined to comment. Possible offenses to be investigated include failure to report a crime.

The crime shocked many in Steubenville because of the seeming callousness with which other students took out their cellphones to record the attack and gossiped about it online.

Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said the victim was treated like a toy, and argued that she was so intoxicated that she couldn't consent to sex that night, while the defense contended the girl realized what she was doing and was known to lie.

The girl testified Saturday that she could not recall what happened but woke up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party.

"It was really scary," she said. "I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything."

She said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages from friends and saw a photo of herself naked, along with a video that made fun of her and the alleged attack.

Evidence at the trial included sexually explicit text messages sent by numerous students after the party. A computer forensic expert documented hundreds of thousands of texts found on 17 phones seized during the investigation.

During sentencing, Judge Thomas Lipps urged parents and others to have discussions about the impact of social media.

"Many of the things we learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly," she said.

After the verdict, the accuser's mother rebuked the boys for "lack of any moral code."

"You were your own accuser, through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on," she said. She added that the case "does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow and move on."

Echoing that, the judge said that "as bad as things have been for all of the children involved in this case, they can all change their lives for the better."

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