Ohio Attorney General Seeks Grand Jury Probe in Teen Rape

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he’s asking a state court to convene a grand jury to consider evidence of broader complicity in the sexual assault of a teenage girl by two high-school football players last year.

The defendants, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, yesterday were found delinquent, the equivalent of guilty, by Judge Thomas Lipps in a juvenile court proceeding in Steubenville, Ohio. The non-jury trial started on March 13.

Charges against each included rape by digital penetration and kidnapping of a 16-year-old, De Wine said yesterday in a statement. Mays was also accused of disseminating nudity-oriented materials of a juvenile.

“Every rape is a tragedy. This is tragedy,” the attorney general said. Agents of his office interviewed almost 60 people in connection with the incident, which involved two house parties. Sixteen people refused to be interviewed, he said.

DeWine said his office’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation also analyzed almost 400,000 text messages, more than 300,000 photos, 940 video clips and more than 3,000 calls.

Richmond’s lawyer, Walter Madison of Akron, Ohio, said he would appeal the ruling.

“He is delinquent. Only adults are guilty,” Madison said yesterday in a telephone interview. “The distinction is important because guilty suggests he’s committed a crime. He’s been found delinquent of an act that if he was an adult would have been considered a crime.”

Charge Dropped

That act, the attorney said, was one of digital penetration of the teen victim. The kidnapping charge was dropped in October, he said.

Mays’ attorney, Brian Duncan, said in a telephone interview today that no decision has been made on whether his client will challenge Lipps’s decision on appeal.

Duncan, a partner in the Columbus, Ohio-based firm Duncan Simonette, described his client as disappointed and upset.

“He’s upset with himself. He’s upset with the entire situation,” the attorney said. Speaking for Mays and his family, he said, “our thoughts and prayers are with the young lady and her family.”

DeWine said he sought a grand jury to meet on or about April 15 to hear evidence of whether crimes were committed by other individuals.

“I anticipate numerous witnesses will be called to testify,” he said. Convening such a panel doesn’t necessarily mean additional charges will be filed, he said.

DeWine said in another statement that two teeange girls were arrested in Steubenville late this afternoon for threatening the rape victim.

Misdemeanor Counts

A 16-year-old girl was charged with one misdemeanor count of aggravated menacing for threatening the life of the victim on Twitter, according to the statement. A 15-year-old was charged with a misdemeanor count of menacing for threatening bodily harm to the victim on Facebook. The girls weren’t named in the statement.

Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, both members of the Steubenville High School football team, apologized in court yesterday. Lipps ordered each held in a juvenile detention facility for at least one year. The juvenile system could hold them until age 21.

Mays faces a second year for the additional count, Duncan said. “With good behavior, he could be out in two years, if not before,” the attorney said.

Madison said his client will receive credit for time served.

“He’s 16. Nine and one-half months from now seems like forever,” the attorney said. “He’s going to get through this.”

State Championships

The case ignited debate beyond the boundaries of Steubenville because of the status accorded high-school football players in the town of 18,000 on the banks of the Ohio River.

Steubenville High School won the last of its nine state championships in 2006. The Big Red rank third all-time in Ohio with 746 wins and 305 losses in 110 seasons. The school has a 48-21 record in post-season play, the seventh-best mark in Ohio, and head coach Reno Saccoccia has amassed a 311-56 record in 31 years with the school, according to its website.

“This has been particularly hard for the victim and her family,” DeWine said. “As I said already, any rape is a tragedy. But it is even more of a tragedy when that victim is continually re-victimized in the social media.”

Mays’ lawyer, Duncan, echoed those thoughts in his comments today.

“We respect the decision of the court,” he said. “We hope that this case case will be used as a teaching tool for the youth of the country as to how they need to conduct themselves with respect to social media, sexual relations and their overall interactions with each other.”