After months of widespread media coverage and online outrage and four days of testimony, the high school football players charged with raping a drunk 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio were found “delinquent” (the juvenile court equivalent of guilty) on Sunday morning. 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond was sentenced to at least one year in jail, while 17-year-old Trent Mays will serve an additional year for taking nude photos of the victim that ended up on Instagram. Both could remain behind bars until they turn 21.
Judge Thomas Lipps called the details of the case “profane” and “ugly” before delivering his verdict. After giving his decision, he pointed out that the defendants would be spending many more years in prison had they committed their crimes as adults, and added that he hoped the incident would serve as a cautionary lesson to other teenagers about “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.” The defendants broke down in tears after hearing the announcement, with Richmond turning to his lawyer to say, “My life is over.” Both were then permitted to address the court and the victim.
Mays stood up to say that he would “truly like to apologize to [the victim], her family, and the community. No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken.” Richmond walked across the room to where the victim was seated and told her, “I had not intended to do anything like this. I’m sorry to put you through this.” He then began crying uncontrollably and “embraced a court officer.” Lipps speculated that the teenagers “might be dealing with emotions” because the consequences of their actions “were now dawning on them.”
On Saturday, the victim testified about the rape — or, more accurately, she talked about the aftermath, since she said the only memory she had of the six-hour ordeal was a moment she spent throwing up. While the defense argued that she was not too drunk to consent, the girl said that, on the morning after the attack, she woke up naked in the basement of a strange house with Mays, Richmond, another boy, and no idea how she’d gotten there. She left without her underwear, shoes, earrings, or phone. When she began to see tweets about the incident, she said “she didn’t know what to believe.” Later, a friend showed the victim a photo of herself naked and lying on her side, which she did not recognize. She finally found out what had happened when a witness directed her to a YouTube video mocking her “deadness” while she was assaulted. “Honestly, I was praying everything I heard wasn’t true. I thought everyone would blame me,” she said.
At a press conference following the verdict, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he intended to continue pursuing the case. He asked that a grand jury convene on April 15 to decide whether to charge additional people with crimes like failing to report a felony and evidence tampering. DeWine also said that his office would try to talk to sixteen “mostly underage” witnesses who had refused to speak to them during the investigation. “This community needs assurance that no stone has been left unturned in our search for the truth,” he said. “No one can take any pleasure in this. Every rape is a tragedy. This is a tragedy. This happens every Friday night. We shouldn’t tolerate it anymore as a country.”