Ohio rape trial turns to eyewitness testimony 0
Prosecuting attorney Brian Deckert (R) holds up a photograph in evidence for witness and Bureau of Crime Investigation Special Agent Ed Lulla (L) in juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio, March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Keith Srakocic/Pool
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - Teammates of two high school football players from Ohio accused of raping a girl at a party last summer testified on Friday they saw their classmates commit sex acts on the girl during the alcohol-fueled events that night.
Mark Cole, who was granted immunity for his testimony, said he recorded a video of Trent Mays performing the act on the girl during a car ride between houses in Steubenville the night of the party, but deleted it the next morning.
“It was one of those moments when you realize you did something wrong or stupid,” Cole said during testimony in which he also said he drank eight to 10 beers that night and his memory of the evening was foggy.
Evan Westlake, who also was granted immunity, testified he saw Ma’lik Richmond commit a sex act on the girl on the basement floor of a house the same night last August.
Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, are accused of raping the girl when she was too drunk to move or speak. She told police she did not remember what happened, but reported the incident the next day after she heard details from friends. They have denied raping her and say any sex that happened was consensual.
It is Reuters’ policy not to name rape victims.
The rape case drew national attention to the Ohio steel town of Steubenville, on the West Virginia border and about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh, after a photo and video from the party were posted online.
The computer hacking group Anonymous later publicized the picture of two males carrying the girl by her wrists and ankles and organized protests accusing the town known for its “Big Red“ football team of covering up the involvement of more players.
Cole, Westlake and a third Steubenville football player testified for the prosecution in a preliminary hearing after receiving assurances they would not be charged for their actions that night. All were expected to testify at the trial.
Defense attorneys have questioned whether the witnesses in the case remembered details from the party or were repeating rumors that circulated afterward through their own social groups and from investigators looking into the rape allegations.
Lawyers for the boys say the victim had told friends in advance that she wanted to have sex with the players.
Under cross-examination by Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, Cole said “yes” when asked whether he felt obligated to answer questions from an investigator in “the direction they were pushing you.”
Prosecutors have argued the girl was too drunk to make a decision about her welfare and have introduced as evidence graphic text messages about the party and events afterward and two pictures that were recovered from mobile devices.
The juvenile charges against Mays and Redmond are being heard by visiting Judge Tom Lipps. If convicted, they could be required to stay at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21 and then register as sex offenders.