US teen football players found guilty of rape

Two Ohio players face at least one year in juvenile jail in case raising questions over role of social media.

    Two high school football players in the US state of Ohio have been found guilty of rape. 

    The judge announced the verdict on Sunday following four days of testimony in Jefferson County juvenile court in eastern Ohio. 

    The two star players - 16-year-old MaLik Richmond and 17-year-old Trent Mays - were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile jail for raping a 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fuelled party last summer.

    Richmond and Mays broke down in tears after the verdict was read and later apologised to the victim.

    They were arrested after a phone-camera picture of the victim on the night she was sexually assaulted was emailed to many people in the community.

    Social media attention and allegations of selective prosecution have given the case an international profile.

    Al Jazeera's John Terrett, reporting from Washington, DC, said the case has divided the community between those who claimed the two teenagers were unfairly charged, and those who wanted to end the culture of protecting young players.

    "I'm afraid there's a lot of cases of date-rape and things here, but you don't often get to see evidence like this posted online," Terrett said. "For that reason this case has attracted an awful lot of tension".

    Night of drinking

    The teenage girl testified on Saturday that she could not recall what happened the night of the attack but remembered waking up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party.

    "They treated her like a toy."

    - Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter

    The girl said she recalled drinking, leaving the party holding hands with Mays and throwing up later. When she woke up, she said she discovered her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing, she testified.

    "It was really scary," she said. "I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything."

    She 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.''

    "They treated her like a toy," said special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter.

    In sentencing the teens, Judge Thomas Lipps urged everyone who had witnessed what happened in the case, including parents, "to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends".

    In questioning the girl's account, defence attorneys went after her character and credibility. Two former friends of the girl testified that the accuser had a history of drinking heavily and was known to lie.

    The length of the sentences for Richmond and Mays beyond the minimum one year will be determined by juvenile authorities; they can be held until they are 21.

    After they were taken into custody on Sunday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he planned to convene a grand jury next month to investigate whether anyone else should be charged in the case.

    Noting that 16 people refused to talk to investigators, many of them underage, DeWine said possible crimes to be investigated include failure to report a felony and failure to report child abuse.

    "This community desperately needs to have this behind them, but this community also desperately needs to know justice was done and that no stone was left unturned," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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