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Blog: Steubenville rape trial on, about social media

6:59 PM, Mar 17, 2013   |    comments
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Alert:: Graphic language is used sparingly in this blog.

In quick order Sunday morning, the Steubenville rape trial of two boys -- 16 and 17 -- was over as Judge Thomas Lipps pronounced them delinquent, the juvenile court equivalent of guilty.

Minutes after the verdict and after the boys were taken into custody, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine held a scheduled press conference where he said he will ask that a grand jury be convened for possible other indictments.

DeWine said 16 people -- all underage, as he put it -- refused to speak to DeWine's investigative team. He expects it to begin April 15 and know that people can be compelled to testify before a grand jury.

DeWine was asked what the possible charges could be. To that he replied "...failure to report a felony...tampering with evidence..." Now, in juvenile court, unlike adult court, rape is not a felony but failure to report a crime is also chargeable.

He is likely talking about other witnesses to the incidents who saw what Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, did to the drunk victim, who was 16. There are others who may have taken to social media -- YouTube, Twitter, Facebook -- to comment or post pictures.

You see, the Steubenville rape case was thrust into the worldwide spotlight because of and through social media. As the investigation continued and the trial date was set, the huge divide in the town of 18,400 where high school football is king grew wider and wider.

Many accused the football coach and the county sheriff of a cover-up because the two boys were members of the Big Red football team.

But DeWine also said that rape is "not just a Steubenville problem..." and that rapes are occuring in small towns and big towns all across America.

He added that the case was a tragedy made even worse because the victim was revictimized through social media. He said "...rape is not a recreational activity..." and that needs to be proven time and time again in trials such as this.

But know that DeWine also defended the rights granted by the First Amendment and people's rights. He said that becomes difficult to understand when "lots of garbage" posted on social media comes out but a lot of it "...is false..."

Bloggers got involved once a YouTube video, lurid text messages and cell phone photos, and Twitter posts went viral, and even the loosely organized hacking group Anonymous, all who questioned everything from the behavior of the football team to the integrity of the investigation.

One of the three witnesses who testified this week said he used his cell phone to record Mays putting his fingers inside the girl's vagina during a drive from one party to another. He said he deleted the video the next morning when he realized it was wrong.

Richmond is also said to have digitally penetrated the victim.

Mays was also found guilty of disseminating a nude photo of a minor.

What we need to take away from all of this is something telling that occured during the trial. From Day One, Mays and Richmond sat emotionless in their seats at the defense table.

On Sunday, when Lipps announced the verdicts, the sobs of both defendants were immediately noticeable and continued for some time.

What am I trying to say? In my opinion, they sat through that trial thinking that they didn't do anything wrong and would be found not guilty....and that didn't happen.

I feel for the victim and I applaud DeWine for making sure that anyone else who can and should be charged in this is brought to justice.

If one, single good thing came out of this trial, it is the fact that the Rape Crisis Center in Cleveland received more calls and inquiries in the two-day period of the beginning of the trial than in any other two-day period in its 39-year history.

As DeWine said, he knows it will take time for the victim to recover. I wish her well.

WKYC-TV

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