From left, Defense attorney Adam Nemann, his client, defendant Trent Mays, 17, defendant 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond and his attorney, Walter Madison, listen to a prosecuting attorney's, right, opening statement.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — A 16-year-old girl was so intoxicated from drinking blue Slushees spiked with vodka in August that she could not consent to sex with two high school football players charged with raping her after a night of partying, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
In the first day of a nonjury trial for the players, Malik Richmond and Trent Mays, assistant Ohio Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter said the two suspects degraded the girl and used her as a “toy” by assaulting her, taking photos of her naked, and texting the images to friends.
Ms. Hemmeter told Judge Thomas Lipps that she would prove the girl was “somebody who was too impaired to say no, somebody who was too impaired to say stop.”
Ms. Hemmeter said young Mays, 17, penetrated the victim with his fingers in the back of a car while she was too drunk to know what was happening.
Young Richmond, 16, is accused of doing the same thing in the basement of a friend’s house later that night while the Mays youth tried to get her to have oral sex.
Lawyers for the youths denied claims that their clients raped the girl and have indicated they will attempt to show that she was alert and able to give consent.
The case has divided the small town of 18,000 amid allegations that police should have brought charges against more students who watched what happened, passed around photos or joked about it online.
Media interest has been so intense that officials at the Jefferson County Justice Center have set up separate rooms for reporters to watch on closed-circuit TV and instituted special security measures.
The first day of testimony from teen witnesses did not shed much light on the allegations, but one boy did admit he offered to pay his pals $3 if they would urinate on the girl as she sat in the street shirtless.
“That was me,” said Patrick Pizzoferrato, 17. “But it was a joke.”
No one took him up on his offer, he said.
He also said that another friend, Anthony Craig, showed him a cell-phone photo of the girl on her hands and knees with Trent behind her as if he had just had sex with her. But, he said, he saw no penetration.
The state will have to rely almost exclusively on testimony about what individuals saw in person or online.
Prosecutors have very little physical evidence because the state’s crime lab was unable to find images of sex acts on any of the 17 cell phones and mobile devices police seized from various teens.
Testimony earlier in the day focused on establishing the girl’s level of intoxication, first at the home of Kamy Bellardine, where the initial party was held, and later at two other houses.
One witness, Julia Lefever, 17, said she and the girl were drinking vodka Slushees at the Bellardine home, pouring from a bottle the girl brought with her after crossing the Ohio River from her home in West Virginia to attend a party.
The Lefever youth said her friend started drinking at 8:30 p.m. and got drunk quickly, stumbling and slurring her words.
When the girl wanted to leave the party several hours later with the two suspects and other young men, young Lefever said she tried to intervene but the girl said she was fine.
When she picked the girl up the next morning at the home of Mark Cole, where one of the assaults is alleged to have occurrred, she said her friend was “a mess,” but could not recall what happened.
By then, images and texts had circulated in cyberspace about the events of the previous night.
“She started crying and said, ‘I don’t remember anything,’ ” Julia said.
Although the girl will testify in court and her name has been released online, the Block News Alliance does not identify accusers in sex cases without their consent.
The trial will resume today and is expected to last until Friday.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Torsten Ove is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Torsten Ove at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 412-263-1510.