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Published: Saturday, 3/16/2013

Experts: DNA links football player, victim

3 witnesses get immunity to testify in rape trial

BY TORSTEN OVE
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Trent Mays, 17, left, and co-defendant Malik Richmond, 16, sit in court before the start of the third day of their trial on rape charges at the Jefferson County Justice Center in Steubenville, Ohio, on Friday. Trent Mays, 17, left, and co-defendant Malik Richmond, 16, sit in court before the start of the third day of their trial on rape charges at the Jefferson County Justice Center in Steubenville, Ohio, on Friday.
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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Crime lab experts testified on Friday in the trial of two Steubenville High School football players accused of raping an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. The experts said that they found DNA evidence on a blanket that matched one of the boys.

Forensics experts with the state crime lab said they recovered samples from a blanket that authorities say Trent Mays, 17, used to cover himself and the girl as they slept on a couch after the alleged assault in the home of a friend, Mark Cole, on Aug. 12.

In text messages from young Mays, he had told a female friend that the alleged victim had masturbated him after a night of heavy drinking last summer.

The DNA testimony marked the third day of a nonjury juvenile trial for the Mays youth and his friend, Malik Richmond, 16, at the Jefferson County Justice Center in Steubenville.

Prosecutors contend the girl was so intoxicated that she was unable to consent to sexual activity. The defense contends that any sexual activity was consensual.

Earlier Friday, three friends of the boys who said they witnessed the assaults and testified against them at a hearing in October invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and received immunity from Judge Thomas Lipps for their testimony.

The state attorney general’s office had previously sent each a letter saying agents could not find enough evidence to charge them with any crimes. Two of them admitted to taking pictures or videos of the assault, but the state crime lab was unable to recover those images. That’s the only reason, the attorney general’s office said, that they were not charged.

All three reluctantly took the stand in October and again on Friday, saying they saw the girl — so intoxicated that some referred to her as a “dead body” — lying naked and unresponsive on the floor of Mark Cole’s basement while the two suspects assaulted her.

Young Cole, 17, said he saw the Mays youth first assault the girl in his car on the night of Aug. 11 on their way to the Cole house after an end-of-summer party at the home of Kamy Bellardine. The party was attended by about 50 juveniles. The girl, whom the Block News Alliance is not identifying, was extremely intoxicated, according to witnesses.

Later in the basement, the Cole teen said he saw young Mays trying to have the girl participate in oral sex as she lay naked on the floor while young Thompson lay behind her and digitally penetrated her.

Asked why he videotaped the first act in the car, he said he was being dumb. He said he deleted the video from his phone the next day.

The prosecution also focused on texts that young Cole had sent indicating he knew that the girl was going to be sexually assaulted. In one, sent at 2:38 a.m., he warned the Mays youth: “Seriously, dude, don’t rape her.”

Another boy who received immunity, Anthony Craig, said he took two pictures of what he saw because “I was stupid,” and, after he left the house, showed them to his buddies who had gathered at Jake Howarth’s home.

Later, he filmed another boy, Michael Nodianos, joking at length about the sexual incident, although young Nodianos did not witness it. Another friend, Evan Westlake, said he posted the Nodianos youth’s drunken 12-minute rant on YouTube under the tagline “deadgirl.” It was that video that sparked a firestorm of outrage on social media.

While the Ohio crime lab was unable to find images on 17 cell phones seized by police, technicians did recover hundreds of incriminating text messages. Much of the prosecution’s case has been based on those texts.

The afternoon after the incident, for example, young Mays sent the Cole teen a text asking him to send the video he had shot in the car, but the latter refused.

When young Mays persisted, the Cole youth responded that any pictures could be used to prosecute them.

The trial will continue today and Sunday.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Torsten Ove is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-231-0132.



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