On the fifth and final day of a long and emotional rape trial recounting a drunken and violent evening, Judge Thomas Lipps delivered a guilty verdict on all charges Sunday morning in the Steubenville rape trial, calling the situation "profane" and "ugly" as the boys cried aloud and were handed the maximum sentencing. The Ohio attorney general said a grand jury would convene around April 15 to "bring finality" to a case that captured the attention of a nation — and that "additional charges could be filed" after 16 people, most of whom were students at the post-football game parties last August, had refused to talk to his investigators.
Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond — stars on the Steubenville High football team and 17 and 16 years old, respectively — were found "delinquent," which Lipps informed the boys in front of him was "similar to a finding of guilty in an adult court." Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in a juvenile rehabilitation facility and a maximum of until he turns 21 on a juvenile charge of rape; Mays, who was also found delinquent on a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, was sentenced to a minimum of two years and a "consecutive" sentence that could last until he turns 24. As the lead prosecutor said there was "no remorse" for the victim from the convicted, Mays cried out in the Ohio courtroom and frequently returned to his handkerchief as his attorneys consoled him. Lipps said the boys "might be dealing with emotions" since the consequences "were now dawning on them."
The verdict followed two and half hours of testimony from the 16-year-old Jane Doe victim Saturday, in which she recounted an evening she barely remembered. The big news from Saturday's testimony were text messages exchanged between the victim and the suspects. In one message, one of the defendants (thought to be Mays) identified a substance on the victim in one of the many pictures that circulated on social media after the drunken night in question as his semen. The defense's strategy centered around levels of drunkenness to prove consent. Lipps a 37-year veteran of Ohio juvenile court, was brought out of retirement after a judge connected with the Steubenville High football team recused himself — indeed, this was a trial with as many characters as there were emotional and dramatic twists.
Update, 10:30 a.m. Eastern: Mays and Richmond both personally apologized to the victim. "I would truly like to apologize to [girl's name], her family, and the community," Mays said. "No pictures should have been sent around, let alone taken." Richmond stood up and walked across the courtroom to where the victim was sitting. "I would like to apologize to you [girl's name]. I had no intention to do anything like that," he said, before breaking down crying. He sniffled out something else, but he was too overcome with emotion to have been audibly understood on the live video feed broadcast across the country.
Update, 10:47 a.m.: The judge started off his sentencing by explaining some things about juvenile court. "Because juvenile court dispositions are different than adult citizens, when a judge enters a disposition," he said, "the judge must weigh three things: the effects on society, accountability for one's actions, and the rehabilitation of youth." Lipps continued: "I'm aware that this is the first time that this is the first time they have been in trouble with the law, but these are serious charges." Lipps explained that "when we started out both of these defendants could have been charged in adult court," where they would have spent "many years in prison." Rape is a Category One felony in adult court, but only a Category Two offense in juvenile parlance. (The second charge against Mays is also a Category Two charge in juvenile court.)
And then came the sentencing: "In this case, regarding the charges of rape, both defendants Ma'lik Richmond and Trent Mays are committed to the department of youth services for a minimum of one year, a maximum of until you're 21." Mays' actions "were more egregious than Malik Richmond," Lipps said. Besides the rape charge, Mays was found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. "I think it is appropriate to make the commitment in Trent Mays' term consecutive," Lipps decided.
Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in the juvenile detention center for the rape charge. Mays was sentenced to a minimum two years in a juvenile detention center for the rape charge. Both boys were also forbidden from having contact with the victim until they are at least 21 years old. Lipps recommended the Lighthouse Youth Center at Paint Creek as a facility, and further decisions on the exact lengths of their stays in juvenile prison will be up to the juvenile system. But Mays is looking at around eight years in that system, and Lipps said, pending their behavior and future decisions, that both could be on a juvenile sexual offenders list "for the rest of their lives."
Outside the courtroom, protestors from Occupy Steubenville rejoiced. Online, there were tears of joy, from sexual-assault victims' rights groups, for "Justice for Jane Doe." Meanwhile, more photos from the party house allegedly surfaced, and there remained questions about at least one of the other boys at the party, Evan Westlake, who was not apparently one of the two boys to receive a sudden immunity deal that may have turned the case for the prosecution, but whose actions were called into question by the defense team in closing arguments on Saturday.
(Photo by Jason Cohn/Reuters)
Update, 11:15 a.m.: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, saying that "this community needs assurance that no stone has been left unturned in our search for the truth," announced at a press briefing at Jefferson County Juvenile Court "that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury," which he said would convene on or around April 15. "I anticipate numerous witnesses will be called. The grand jury, quite frankly, could meet for a number of days," DeWine said, adding that "indictments could be returned and additional charges could be filed." He mentioned failure to report a felony, tampering with evidence, and "others" as possible charges. He added that the boys who received immunity were likely to retain that right.
DeWine gave a sense of scale to his office's investigation: 13 cellphones, 396,270 text messages, 308,586 photos, 940 video clips, 3,188 phone calls, 16,422 cellphone contacts. And that was just the cyber-crimes division, which prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said was brought in on the request of attorneys "after Anonymous hit," referring to the hackers who brought social-media attention to the case and "put enormous pressure" on the victim. DeWine also said the "appalling" case involved closed to 60 interviews, but that 16 people refused to talk to his investigators, and that his office was seeking finality in continuing court proceedings in the matter. "Most of the 16 are underage," DeWine said.
"This is not a happy time for anyone. No one can take any pleasure in this. Every rape is a tragedy. This is a tragedy," DeWine said, moving on to castigate rape culture in general. "This happens every Friday night," DeWine said. "We shouldn't tolerate it anymore as a country."