COLUMBUS — As soon as the visiting judge delivers verdicts in next week’s rape trial of two Steubenville high school football players, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine will announce whether prosecutions will be expanded to include others who may have witnessed what happened and did nothing to stop it.
Mr. DeWine, whose office is handling the prosecutions, said Monday he will hold a news conference in Steubenville to announce his decision.
The attorney general met in his office for about 30 minutes with a dozen people delivering petitions to urge him to file charges against Michael Nodianos, 18, of Steubenville, the subject of a 12-minute YouTube video in which he talked and laughed about the incident hours after it occurred.
Mr. DeWine declined to specifically discuss charges in connection with the video, but he addressed the issue that has sparked national debate — whether a culture exists in Steubenville and elsewhere in which sexual assault is tolerated and even joked about.
“This is a question, frankly, of human dignity,” the Republican former U.S. senator, lieutenant governor, and Dayton area county prosecutor said. “It is a question of personal rights, individual rights. … We believe — we don’t want to try this case in the press — that the evidence will show that this young woman’s privacy, individual rights, human rights were violated.”
Representatives of the National Organization for Women and the national women’s rights group UltraViolet delivered printouts of 85,000 “signatures” gathered via the Internet from Ohio and across the world calling for Mr. Nodianos to be prosecuted for failing to report or abetting a crime.
“He was joking about it, and that’s bad enough, but the fact that he did nothing to intervene … ,” said Jacqueline Hillyer of Ashtabula, president of NOW’s Ohio chapter. “He was apparently there because he knew what was going on. He said she’s been raped … and he goes on to describe some of the activities that were fairly disgusting. There must have been other people.”
The struggling Ohio River steel town is preparing for the juvenile court trial of Trent Mays and wide receiver Ma’lik Richmond for the alleged rape of a 16-year-old Weirton, W.Va. girl during a series of alcohol-fueled parties on Aug. 11. The parties marked an informal end to summer and the start of the new football season.
Mr. Nodianos was recorded discussing and laughing about the alleged rape of an unconscious girl during the parties.
The video was quickly taken down, but was later recovered by the computer hacking group Anonymous and reposted to the Internet.
It rapidly went viral, prompting protests at the Jefferson County Courthouse and generating a national debate about how others at the party could watch, not intervene, and then fail to report a crime.
Columbus attorney Colin McNamee, one of the attorneys for Mr. Nodianos, declined comment when contacted about the petitions.
“Anybody who’s seen the video, as I have, thinks it’s disgusting,” Mr. DeWine said. “We’re not just focusing on that one individual. … We’re looking at anybody else who has any involvement, not only in the actual crime itself but anybody who has culpability after the fact. It’s bigger than the video.”
He noted that Mr. Nodianos’ “obnoxious rant” was not recorded at the scene of the alleged rape and Mr. Nodianos was apparently not an eyewitness. He stressed, however, that this doesn’t mean he might not still have culpability.
Mr. DeWine stressed that failing to report a felony is just a fourth-degree misdemeanor in Ohio, “which was shocking to me.”
“I feel it’s important that not only the state and the country but in particular for the Steubenville community to feel that justice, whatever comes out of this, has been done … ,” he said. “And then it’s important for the community to have that behind it and continue on with people going about their lives.”
Two lawyers in Mr. DeWine’s office took over prosecution of the juvenile court case because of conflicts of interest cited by the local prosecutor.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 614-221-0496.