STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — Text messages introduced Thursday in the rape trial of two high school football players provided differing accounts of what happened between them and a 16-year-old girl: One from a defendant described mutual sex, while another from the girl said she remembered leaving a party with the players but nothing after that.
The flurry of text messages sent around the eastern Ohio city of Steubenville after the alleged rape last year were presented as evidence on the second day of the trial before Special Judge Thomas Lipps, who is hearing the case without a jury.
“Swear to God I don’t remember doing anything with them,” the girl wrote to a friend, a boy who authorities say saw the assaults. “I wasn’t being a slut. They were taking advantage of me.”
Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, 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 the girl 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.
The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and has 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 included admissions by Mays 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 a former Steubenville high school student, Sean McGhee, who said he considered the girl his friend and said she was extremely drunk the night of the party. McGhee, who goes to Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Ky., 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.
Three teenage boys who are key to the prosecution’s case are expected to take the stand Friday. Defense attorneys could call the girl to testify since a West Virginia judge ruled Tuesday night that she and two of her friends could be subpoenaed.
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.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus