Two high school football stars were found guilty on Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl last August, in a case that drew wide attention for the way social media spurred the initial prosecution and later helped galvanize national outrage over the episode. The town’s obsession over its football team, many said, had shielded other teenagers who did little or nothing to protect the girl.
One football player, Trent Mays, 17, who had been a quarterback on the powerhouse Steubenville High School football team, was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system, while the other, Ma’lik Richmond, 16, who played wide receiver, was sentenced to serve at least one year. Both could end up in juvenile jail until they are 21, at the discretion of the state Department of Youth Services.
Mr. Mays’s minimum sentence is twice as long as Mr. Richmond’s because he was found to be delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt — the juvenile equivalent of guilty — not just of rape but also of distributing a nude image of a minor.
After Judge Thomas Lipps read his decision in Juvenile Court, both boys broke down and sobbed. Mr. Richmond turned to his lawyer, Walter Madison, and said, “My life is over.”
Mr. Mays apologized to the victim by name, as well as to “her family and the community. No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken.” Mr. Richmond then walked over to where the victim and her family were sitting and said, “I had not intended to do anything like this. I’m sorry to put you through this,” before he broke down, unable to speak any more, and embraced a court officer.
The judge found that both boys had used their fingers to penetrate the girl while she was so drunk in the early hours of Aug. 12 that she lacked the cognitive ability to give her consent for sex. A picture that was circulated among classmates the day after the assault showed the victim naked and passed out. Ohio’s legal definition of rape includes digital penetration.
In sentencing the boys, Judge Lipps described much of the evidence as “profane and ugly” and said rape was among the gravest of crimes. He also said the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers talk to their friends and conduct themselves when alcohol is present, and in “how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today.”