Update: Both defendants were found 'delinquent', the equivalent of a guilty verdict.
Saturday evening both sides rested in the trial that sparked a firestorm of controversy over football, town loyalty and rape. The judge will announce a verdict from the bench at 10 AM this morning.
Testimony has been graphic and difficult to hear. Whatever the judge rules, the conduct of the teenagers was out of control and points to some larger issues with regard to how parents talk to their teenage boys and girls about sexual contact, rape, and consent.
In Saturday's testimony, the victim took the stand and testified that she didn't know what had even happened to her until friends (and I use the term loosely) told her what happened the next day. Some of the teens had posted photos and taken videos of some of the sexual activity, but deleted them later.
Anthony Craig took a photograph of the naked victim, and sent it to numerous people. When Cole received the image, he sent a text to Mays:
“No, like serious Trent, you can’t be doing that,” Cole texted. “And is that your [expletive] [semen] on her stomach?”
“Ha, ha, ha,” Mays texted back. “Yeah.”
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, are accused of raping the girl during a series of end-of-summer parties in August 2012.
One of the witnesses, a 17-year-old, told Judge Thomas Lipps that he used his cell phone to record Mays putting his fingers inside the girl's vagina during a drive from one party to another. The boy said he deleted the video the next morning when he realized it was wrong.
A third witness, 18-year-old Anthony Craig, testified he saw Richmond digitally penetrate the girl in the basement.
"She wasn't moving. She wasn't talking. She wasn't participating," he told the court. Craig was identified in as a Steubenville High School wrestler and friend of Mays and Richmond.
The teen, who testified the alleged victim was also a friend, admitted to taking a cell phone picture of the girl when she was naked in the basement and then showing it later to friends. Asked why, he responded: "It was stupid."
Over the course of the trial, prosecutors revealed text messages that were flying around, including a series where one of the alleged perpetrators pressured the victim to keep silent, saying that his "life would be ruined over nothing." If you'd like to get a sense of what "nothing" is, FreakoutNation has a video of one of the boys "confessing." Be forewarned: The content of the video is graphic and could trigger any victim of sexual assault.
If this case demonstrates anything, it demonstrates why the nonsense spewed into our political discussions about rape is so harmful. I'm certain Steubenville is a place with many, many good people. But what we're looking at right here is the product of a culture that has overlooked common sense and empathy.
In the closing arguments made by the defense, Ma'lik's lawyer stood before the judge and argued that even though his client's conduct - whether it rose to the level of rape or not - was unacceptable, in all other aspects he was extraordinary.
He is extraordinary, and therefore the judge should overlook conduct which included this episode on the evening of August 11th, which was not disputed or impeached by the defense?
The problem for the defense is this: The moment they could argue that the girl perhaps wasn't as completely trashed as the picture suggests, more ugliness emerged.
She might not have been dragged to the car by her alleged attackers, but she didn't just jump up and innocently walk out, either. Mays scooped her up, carried her over one shoulder and took her through the door. Besides, it was just minutes later that she lay in the street in front of the house, puking on the pavement with her shirt off, wearing only a bra, as a group of boys watched.
That included Patrick Pizzoferrato, who isn't facing charges, yet acknowledged on the stand Wednesday that he pulled $3 from his pocket and offered it to anyone who would urinate on the girl.
One of the kids who, at least vocally, claimed to be considering the offer was Ma'lik Richmond.
"He was asking if he should piss on her," said witness Jake Howarth.
Yes. Extraordinary, indeed. Who does something like that? The defense attorney was making the case that even though these things happened, Richmond was extraordinary. How can the word extraordinary be interpreted any other way than as a reference to his football prowess? It's certainly possible that he's a good student too, but my gut tells me that's less important than his extraordinary-ness on the football field.
The trial was broadcast live on the Internet and also on broadcast television, with power to cut off the feed at any time in the hands of the judge. After the victim's full name was mentioned several times, the judge did cut it off, only to come back and revive it for the closing arguments where both sides used her full name at least three separate times.
As a parent, this is unacceptable to me, whether a parent of the defendant or the victim, but my sympathies are mostly with the victim. It feels like subtle intimidation, a way to say that even when all of this is over, it won't be over, but instead will haunt her and hunt her down. It almost felt defiant, communicating a subtle statement that if someone is going to have the nerve to prosecute these boys, they damn well better be ready to own it and the consequences.
It's our sisters, it's our mothers, it's our daughters. I'm so happy that we're having this conversation. - Traci Lords
Well, at least some of us are.