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Shows & Panels
Ohio school rape trial closing, verdict Sunday
Sunday - 3/17/2013, 3:02am EDT
AP Legal Affairs Writer
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) -- 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.
Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, are charged with digitally penetrating the girl, first in a car and then in the basement of a house, while out partying Aug. 12. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. They maintain their innocence.
The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
The allegations were huge locally for weeks, then became the focus of Internet attention in the fall after hacker activists and bloggers began publishing the names of other students. Attention peaked again after a 12-minute YouTube video resurfaced in January in which a student jokes about the girl, calling her "dead" and making numerous off-color remarks.
On the stand Saturday, the girl said she remembers drinking at the party, leaving the party holding hands with Mays, then throwing up later. The next thing she remembers is waking up with no clothes on in a strange house, she said. She said she felt scared and embarrassed. Her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing, she testified.
"It was really scary," she said. "I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything."
She recalled being in a car later with Mays and Richmond and asking them what happened.
"They kept telling me I was a hassle and they took care of me," she testified. "I thought I could trust him (Mays) until I saw the pictures and video."
She said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself that night, and the YouTube video. She said she suspected she had been drugged because she couldn't explain being as intoxicated as defense witnesses have said she was.
The girl testified in a quiet, sometimes hesitant voice, and broke down only once: when prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter showed her a second photo of herself naked that the girl had never seen.
Richmond observed the girl carefully as she spoke while Mays, as he often had during the trial, fidgeted, not appearing to focus on any one thing in the courtroom.
Prosecutors told the judge in closing arguments that the evidence was overwhelming. Hemmeter said that includes the girl's admission of being drunk that night.
"The thing that made her an imperfect witness, that she didn't remember anything, made her a perfect victim," Hemmeter said.
Defense attorneys argued that prosecutors hadn't proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"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.'"
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.