The accuser in the rape trial of two Ohio high school football players testified Saturday as the trial neared an end that she recalled drinking at a party last summer but could not remember what had happened when she awoke the next day naked in a strange house.
Testimony in the four-day nonjury trial against Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond ended after the judge heard from the 16-old West Virginia girl and others in the juvenile court case. Judge Thomas Lipps said he would announce a decision Sunday.
If found delinquent — the juvenile court equivalent of guilty — the two defendants could be held in juvenile jail until they turn 21, when they would be released.
(If you click on the link above, be sure to read the comments. Steubenville isn’t our only problem.)
For those of you not familiar with this case, I wrote about it here.
There are two sets of witnesses here – The boys who were there and granted immunity for testifying against their friends and the girl’s former friends. Here’s what was said:
The boys with immunity:
Testimony Friday from three teenage boys granted immunity incriminated the defendants.
Mark Cole, Evan Westlake and Anthony Craig said the West Virginia girl was drunk and didn’t seem to know what was happening to her that night. They said she was digitally penetrated in a car and later on a basement floor.
Cole testified that he took a video of Mays and the girl in the car, then deleted it later that morning. He testified he saw Mays unsuccessfully try to have the girl perform oral sex on him in the basement of Cole’s house.
Westlake testified he saw Richmond’s encounter with the girl in the basement, as did Craig. Westlake also confirmed that he filmed the 12-minute YouTube video, later passed around widely online, in which another student joked about the attack.
Craig testified that he saw Richmond’s hand in the “crotch region” of the girl, a less descriptive version than he gave last fall in another hearing.
The girl’s former friends:
Earlier Saturday, defense attorneys went after the accuser’s character, calling two former friends of hers to the stand. They testified that the girl had a history of drinking heavily and was known to lie about things.
West Virginia high school student Kelsey Weaver said the accuser told her what happened two days after the alleged attack then, sometime afterward, told Weaver she couldn’t remember what happened.
“So two different versions?” asked Mays’ attorney Adam Nemann.
“Yes,” Weaver replied.
Earlier, Weaver testified that the accuser was flirting at the party with Richmond.
Both Weaver and schoolmate Gianna Anile testified they were angry at the accuser because she was drinking heavily at the party and rolling around on the floor. They said they tried unsuccessfully to get her to stop drinking.
Anile said she also tried to get her friend to stay at the party rather than leave with others, including the two defendants.
“When I told her not to leave, I was trying to, like, pull her back into the party. She was trying to shrug me off,” Anile testified. “She kind of hit me.”
Okay. Umm… I’m not sure what to make of the former friends’ testimony, since it doesn’t prove anything other than the victim/accuser (take your pick) was drinking and flirting at a party. When it comes to the boys’ testimony, it’s the texts, tweets, videos, etc. that back up what they said. The main witness in this trial is social media. Quite simply, if these kids hadn’t created a digital record there would be no case.
When it was her turn on the witness stand, the girl, guided by the prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter, testified for two hours about how she discovered how she was treated that night, and how she came to figure out that Mr. Mays was only pretending to care about her in an effort to try to save himself.
She said an increasingly frantic Mr. Mays repeatedly sent her text messages the next day, pleading with her not to press charges and saying that he feared his football career would be hurt.
“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 message, she said, Mr. Mays admitted taking the picture of her naked in the basement but said that he did not know how the photograph had been circulated. He said the picture showed his semen on top of her, the result of what he said had been a consensual sexual act.
At one point, Mr. Mays, who maintained that he had taken care of the girl while she was drunk, appeared to grow increasingly frustrated that she refused to reassure him. He told her in a text message, “I’ll just never do anything nice for you again.”
Later, in the final series of text messages they ever exchanged, Mr. Mays told her, “I’m about to get kicked off my football team.”
The girl replied: “The more you bring up football, the more pissed I get, because that’s like all you care about.”
Mr. Mays texted back: “You know that’s not all I care about, but that needs to be taken care of first.”
If you haven’t educated your kids about the digital world, you had better get on it. These text messages from Mays (it doesn’t say if they were presented as evidence or if this was the accuser/victim’s memory), if they exist, make it pretty clear that he knew he did something wrong. They were sent the next day.
But what’s really disgusting is the defense attorney. Remember Mr. Madison? He’s the one who started the case with this statement: He said that online photographs and posts could ultimately be “a gift” for his client’s case because the girl, before that night in August, had posted provocative comments and photographs on her Twitter page over time. He added that those online posts demonstrated that she was sexually active and showed that she was “clearly engaged in at-risk behavior.”
From the beginning Mr. Madison’s goal was to paint the girl as sexually active, and rely on the slut defense. And he’s really relying on this. He said this the other day:
But attorney Walter Madison, who represents one of the accused boys, argues she was drinking voluntarily and left willingly with the group of boys.
As reported by the Cleveland Trader Madison said: ‘There’s an abundance of evidence here that she was making decisions, cognitive choices.’ ‘She didn’t affirmatively say no,’ he stated. And… ‘The person who is the accuser here is silent just as she was that night, and that’s because there was consent.’
So… drinking and leaving a party with a boy you like makes what happened okay? Is that really consent? Of course not, but that seems to be the defense. There are plenty of kids who get sloppy drunk at parties and don’t get raped. Know why? Because there weren’t any rapists in the room.
His closing argument:
“The reality is, she drank, she has a reputation for telling lies,” said Walter Madison, representing Richmond. “When she wakes up and finds out kids have submitted a photo of her on the Internet, she has two choices: saying, `Yeah, that’s me,’ or, `I was having an alcoholic impairment.”‘
And there’s his case. He doesn’t deny the sexual activity. So it looks like this will all come down to how drunk she was. I would be very concerned if I were Richmond and Mays.
I’ll update when the verdict comes in. Live stream here.
UPDATE: Both defendants guilty on all three counts.