STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — In a soft voice, a 16-year-old high school student told Saturday of waking up scared and naked in an unfamiliar house after a night of drinking last summer. Much to her horror, she soon realized her troubles would grow only worse.
For about two hours, the girl testified at the trial of two Steubenville High School football players, Trent Mays, 17, and Malik Richmond, 16, accused of raping her Aug. 11 after an alcohol-fueled party in Steubenville.
The girl’s recounting of the night concluded the testimony in the case. Both the prosecution and defense teams gave closing statements Saturday night in the nonjury trial. Neither defendant testified. Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps, brought in from Hamilton County to hear the case in Jefferson County Juvenile Court, will make his ruling today at 10 a.m.
The girl, whom the Block News Alliance is not identifying, told Assistant Ohio Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter that she didn’t remember much of what happened after leaving a summer party at the home of Kamy Bellardine with Trent after consuming a blue slush spiked with vodka, a shot of vodka, and another drink.
She testified that she started feeling drunk at the party and remembers walking out of the house. The next thing, she said, was waking up on the floor of another home, later identified as that of Mark Cole, naked and “embarrassed and scared.”
“I couldn’t remember anything,” she said.
‘Couldn’t stop crying’
Prosecutors contend it was during that gap that the girl was sexually assaulted by the two football players. On Friday, Mark, 17, testified that he saw Trent first assault the victim in his car on the way to his house. He said that he later saw Trent try to have the girl participate in oral sex as she lay naked on the floor while Malik lay behind her and digitally penetrated her.
The prosecution argues that the girl was so intoxicated that she was unable to consent to sexual activity that night. The defense contends that any sexual activity was consensual.
After waking up, the victim said she did not ask Trent, Malik, or Mark, all of whom were in the house with her, what had happened. She said she had lost her underwear, her cell phone, her earrings, and her shoes.
“I was really embarrassed. ... I did not know what to think,” she said.
Contradicting the statement of a friend who testified earlier in the day, the girl said she was silent in the car after she was picked up at the house. Malik and Trent left with her. After they were dropped off, the girl said she started crying because she was “freaked out, worried, and scared.”
Shown a photo of her being carried by her arms and ankles by two boys she identified as Trent and Malik, she said she did not recall that happening. Nor did she recall being naked and lying on her side, as another photo showed. She broke down once on the witness stand when shown a third photo taken that night.
It was only over the course of the next few days, she said, that she began to piece together what had happened, as people began sending her texts, photos, and other information about what had gone on. One piece was a YouTube video that showed a boy, Michael Nodianos, joking about the incident even though he did not witness it.
The girl said that when she watched video, “I couldn’t stop crying. I just turned it off.”
Her parents prodded her to go to the hospital to be examined a couple of days later, but she said she didn’t want to give information. “Honestly, I was praying that everything I heard wasn’t true,” she said.
At the hospital, she said, she received texts from Trent, who was “just like freaking out” and “kept asking are you going to tell the police.”
In a series of text exchanges, Trent insisted that he had taken care of her. At one point he wrote, “This is the most pointless thing. I’m going to get into trouble. … I should be getting thanked for taking care of you.”
But later, after the girl confronted him, he admitted taking a photo of her naked. He also said in a text that she had masturbated him.
Under questioning from Ms. Hemmeter, the victim said she never used the word “rape,” but she also said she did not know that the definition included digital penetration.
Trent continued to press the girl about whether she was going to file charges with police, she said, adding at one point that he was about to get kicked off the football team.
Under cross-examination, the girl admitted that she was interested in Trent and left with him that night because she thought she could trust him. She added she thought she could trust what Trent was saying about the incident “until I saw the pictures and the video.”
Earlier in the day, Gianna Anile, a friend of the victim at the time, said she confronted the girl after reports began circulating on the Internet about what had happened the night before.
Gianna, one of the only three defense witnesses to testify, recalled that the victim said about that night, “We didn’t have sex, I swear.” When she asked what happened, the girl replied, “I don’t know. I don’t remember,” Gianna testified.
During the party at Kamy’s house, Gianna said that she noticed the victim was “being weird.” At one point, she said she tried to stop the girl from leaving the party but was rebuffed. She also recalled the victim drinking more heavily than the victim had testified.
Neither Gianna nor another girl who testified Saturday morning, Kelsey Weaver, went with the victim to Mark’s house that night. But Gianna said she went there the next day with another friend to pick up the victim. When she arrived, the victim was lying on the couch and Trent was sitting next to her.
In her testimony, the victim denied that she was lying next to Trent when Gianna arrived at Mark’s home. She also did not recall rolling around on the floor at Kamy’s house.
Another defense witness, Kim Fromme, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin who studies alcohol’s effects, estimated that the victim had a blood alcohol level between 0.18 to 0.25 that night, based on the varying reports.
She testified that she believes the victim was in an alcohol-induced blackout that accounted for her lack of memory of it. While the amount of alcohol consumption would have impaired the girl’s judgment, she said she believes the victim was capable of making voluntary decisions. Under cross-examination, she conceded that the victim, if she had blacked out, would not have been able to recall if she was assaulted or if any activity was consensual.
Len Barcousky of Block News Alliance contributed to this report. Block News Alliance consist of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Mark Belko is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Mark Belko at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262