STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Two Steubenville High School students on Sunday were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl during a drunken night of partying in August.
It is a case that has divided the Ohio River town and thrust it into the international spotlight.
Judge Thomas Lipps sentenced Ma’lik Richmond, 16, to at least a year in a juvenile facility and Trent Mays, 17, to at least two years. Both may be detained until they are 21, depending on their progress in juvenile detention, Judge Lipps said.
They must register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
The teens, who were players on the high school’s championship-winning football team, sobbed and hugged their family members and attorneys as the verdicts were read.
Both teens were given an opportunity to speak.
“I would truly like to apologize. No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken,” Mays said.
Richmond walked across the courtroom toward the victim’s family but collapsed, sobbing, into the arms of the chief probation officer.
He apologized several times, but his sobs rendered the apologies virtually incoherent.
The judge’s decision to find the boys delinquent in connection with the rapes, comparable to a guilty verdict in adult criminal court, follows four days of testimony in a nonjury trial that attracted national and international media outlets to the economically depressed former steel town of 19,000 people.
Mays and Richmond were each accused of rape for penetrating the girl with their fingers, and they also were charged with other inappropriate sexual acts. The defense did not dispute that sexual contact took place, but argued the evidence did not support rape charges.
Although the girl’s name has been made public, the Block News Alliance does not identify accusers in sex crimes. The victim resides in Weirton, W.Va.
After prosecutors granted immunity to certain witnesses, some in the community were outraged other teens present that night weren’t facing charges.
During a news conference after the verdicts, Attorney General Mike DeWine announced a grand jury would be empaneled in mid-April. He said 16 people refused to be interviewed during the state’s initial investigation.
“The community needs assurance that no stone has been left unturned in our search for the truth,” he said.
A number of Steubenville residents said on Sunday that they were satisfied with the judge’s decision, but others felt the boys’ status as well-known football players shielded them from a more thorough investigation.
Talk of the verdict was peppered in conversation, from the everybody-knows-your-name LaLa’s Diner in Steubenville to the musty, trinket-filled Treasure Island Flea Market in neighboring Wintersville.
Flea market employee Kevin Amos gestured to his “Big Red” ball cap and called himself a “big supporter” of the football team and head coach Reno Saccoccia.
Mr. Amos, also the father of two Steubenville High graduates, thought the judge’s finding was correct, but that the teens deserved a tougher sentence.
“I’m ashamed,” Mr. Amos said. “I’m ashamed of them for the look they gave our town and the team.”
Minutes after the verdict was read, protesters donning Guy Fawkes masks outside the Jefferson County Juvenile Center and Jail gathered around a banner that read “supporting Jane Doe.”
“We’re ecstatic,” a protester said.
Bob Fitzsimmons, the victim’s attorney, expressed shock that the teens didn’t realize the seriousness of what they were doing.
“To hear those kids say they didn’t know what they were doing is wrong … it’s a real problem,” he said.
The case attracted widespread attention partly because details that first emerged outside the courtroom on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
Some who attended the Aug. 11 party took cell phone pictures and videos of the assault and wrote about it in text messages to each other and on social media platforms.
The judge ordered the defendants to be taken immediately to the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility north of Columbus, where they will undergo an assessment.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Molly Born and Alex Zimmerman are reporters for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Molly Born at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 412-263-1944.