Witnesses to be called in rape trial

Ohio prosecutors prepared to call key eyewitnesses in their case
against two high school football players charged with raping a
16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer.

The testimony of three teenage boys who watched the alleged
attacks is a crucial part of the state’s evidence, since the girl
has said she has no memory of the event. Two of the boys took video
and photographic images of the alleged attacks, then later deleted
them.

Friday’s testimony will follow evidence introduced Thursday in
the form of sometimes graphic text messages in which one of the
defendants, Trent Mays, gave differing accounts of what happened
between him and the girl. At one point Mays appeared to enlist the
help of a friend in whose basement one of the alleged attacks
happened to cover up the event.

In other messages introduced by the prosecution, the girl begged
a friend for information about the night, saying she had no memory
of the evening and feared she might have been drugged.

“Swear to God I don’t remember doing anything with them,” the
girl wrote to the friend who authorities say saw the assaults.

“I wasn’t being a slut. They were taking advantage of me,” she
also wrote to the same boy.

Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, are charged with digitally
penetrating the West Virginia girl, first in the back seat of a
moving car after a party Aug. 11 and then in the basement of a
house. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in
nudity-oriented material. The two maintain their innocence.

Prosecutors insist the girl was too drunk to consent to sex,
while defense attorneys have portrayed her as someone who was
intoxicated but still in control of her actions. Witnesses have
said she was so drunk she threw up and had trouble walking and
speaking.

In one text after the alleged assault, the girl told a boy who
prosecutors say watched the attack, “Wait, I think I was drugged. I
know I have no memory from after I left,” the party.

Special Judge Thomas Lipps is hearing the case without a jury.
He told participants Thursday he would keep the trial in session
well into the evening and through the weekend.

The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid
allegations that more students should have been charged and led to
questions about the influence of the local football team, a source
of a pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the
collapse of the steel industry.

The texts introduced Thursday in juvenile court also included
ones in which Mays admitted that he digitally penetrated the girl.
In other messages, he told friends he’d participated in a
different, mutual sex act with the girl.

He also sent messages to his friends to try to get them to gloss
over what happened that night. In a text to a boy who lives in the
house where the second attack is said to have happened, Mays wrote,
“Just say she came to your house and passed out.”

In another message that prosecutors said Mays sent to the girl’s
father, he said, “this is all a big misunderstanding.”

Prosecutors also presented texts sent by Mays to friends in
which he suggested Steubenville football coach Reno Saccoccia would
let the players involved off lightly.

The coach “…took care of it,” Mays said in one text introduced
by prosecutors.

“Like he was joking about it so I’m not worried,” Mays said in
another text.

Saccoccia has not commented about the allegations, and
Steubenville school officials have refused to make him available.
Phone and email messages were left after hours for Superintendent
Michael McVey. The district has promised to boost education
programs about bullying, date rape and sexual harassment and add
training for faculty and staff members.

Additional testimony Thursday came from Sean McGhee, a former
Steubenville high school student who said he considered the girl
his friend and said she was extremely drunk the night of the party.
He said he was upset after hearing about the alleged assault and
texted Mays.

Dissatisfied with Mays’ account, he texted back: “I saw the pix,
bro. Don’t lie.”

Walter Madison, an attorney for Richmond, challenged McGhee’s
account, saying he may have exaggerated in his mind the girl’s
intoxication because of his anger over the allegations.

Authorities said they collected 17 cellphones in their
investigation. The evidence they yielded is considered crucial to
prosecutors’ case against the boys because of photos taken that
evening.

If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail
until they turn 21.

The Associated Press normally does not identify minors charged
in juvenile court, but Mays and Richmond have been widely
identified in news coverage, and their names have been used in open
court