The two teenage Steubenville, Ohio football players accused of raping a 16-year-old West Virginia girl during a series of alcohol-fueled parties last summer were found guilty Sunday morning by Special Judge Thomas Lipps.
He announced his ruling in juvenile court by saying that both defendants “are hereby adjudicated delinquents beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged.”
Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, both football players at Steubenville High School, received delinquent verdicts on all three charges. Delinquent is the guilty equivalent for juveniles.
They were both convicted of digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, and Mays was also found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The boys will serve their sentence at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21.
When the verdict was read both defendants began sobbing. Mays and Richmond had denied the charge and said any sex that occurred was consensual.
Both were emotional as they spoke, and Richmond struggled at times to talk through his sobs.
Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, also asked that the victim’s family “forgive Malik and Trent for the pain they put you through.”
Mays father said, “We’re sorry for putting everybody through this…Ma’Lik’s family, the community, the school, everybody else.”
“I’m aware this is the first time they have been in trouble with the law, but these are serious offenses,” said Judge Thomas Lipps, who decided the case without a jury.
“If they were convicted in an adult court of these charges they would be spending many years in an adult prison.”
The judge said that the Ohio Department of Youth services will rule on whether the two boys will be detained longer, Judge Lipps said, adding it will depend on their behavior and rehabilitation.
Mays and Richmond apologized after Lipps found them delinquent of all charges against them.
“I had no intention to do anything like that,” Richmond told the court before he was sentenced.
The trial opened last week as a contest between prosecutors determined to show the girl was so drunk she couldn’t have been a willing participant that night, and defense attorneys soliciting testimony from witnesses that would indicate that the girl, though drunk, knew what she was doing.
Lipps heard the juvenile case – which included four days of graphic testimony, much of which had found its way to social media in the days following the incident – without a jury and issued his verdict as many in the old Ohio factory town near the West Virginia border were heading to church, reports the NY Daily News.
Lipps said the evidence presented was profane and ugly at times and said that alcohol consumption showed a particular danger to “our teenage youth.”
The victim, who has not been identified, testified in court on Saturday that she did not remember the attack, but that she remembered waking up naked in a house she did not recognize. Other members of the small Ohio community also testified against the defendants.
“It was really scary,” she said. “I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything.”
The girl said she believed she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself taken that night, along with a video that made fun of her and the alleged attack.
She said she suspected she had been drugged because she couldn’t explain being as intoxicated as defense witnesses have said she was, says ABC News.
“They treated her like a toy,” said special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter.
The girl herself recalled being in a car later with Mays and Richmond and asking them what happened.
“They kept telling me I was a hassle and they took care of me,” she testified. “I thought I could trust him (Mays) until I saw the pictures and video.”
Mays also faced a child pornography charge because he took photos of the victim that were later posted on social media.
The defense attempted to argue that, although she was drunk, she was capable of making decisions and consenting to sexual contact.
Teammates of Mays and Richmond were granted immunity and testified against them at the trial
Last Aug. 11 and 12, the girl attended a series of parties around Steubenville, accompanying Mays and Richmond.
She became more intoxicated as the night wore on, according to witness testimony, and in one of the lurid images that went viral soon after the parties, the girl is seen being carried by her wrists and ankles.
In earlier testimony Saturday, two former friends of the girl told the court in testimony for the defense that she had a reputation as a liar.
An expert defense witness also said the girl may have had enough alcohol to have a memory lapse, implying she could have consented to having sex but did not remember doing so.
After the trial, the accuser’s mother rebuked the boys for “lack of any moral code.”
“You were your own accuser, through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on,” she said.
The photograph led to allegations that three other boys, two of them members of Steubenville High’s celebrated Big Red team, saw something happening that night and didn’t try to stop it but instead recorded it themselves.