Accuser in Ohio rape case can’t recall assault
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A teenage girl who says she was raped by two Ohio high school football players testified Saturday that she could not recall what happened the night of the alleged attack but remembers waking up naked in a strange house after drinking at a party.
The 16-year-old West Virginia girl took the stand on the fourth day of the nonjury trial of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, who both maintain their innocence. The two are charged in juvenile court and testimony is expected to continue through the weekend.
On the stand, the girl said she remembers drinking at a party last August, leaving the party then throwing up later. The next thing she remembers is waking up with no clothes on in a strange house, she said. Her phone, earrings, shoes, and underwear were missing, she testified.
“It was really scary, really scary,” she said. “I honestly did not know what to think because I could not remember anything.”
She said she realized she was assaulted when she later read text messages among friends and saw a photo of herself and a video made that night. She said she suspected she had been drugged because she couldn’t explain being as intoxicated as defense witnesses have said she was.
Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, are charged with digitally penetrating the accuser, first in a car and then in the basement of a house, while out partying Aug. 12. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
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 pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
Earlier Saturday, defense attorneys went after the character and credibility of the alleged victim, calling witnesses to the stand to accommodate their schedule, although the prosecution had not yet rested.
Two former friends of the girl testified for the defense that the accuser had a history of drinking heavily and was known to lie about things.
On the stand, West Virginia high school student Kelsey Weaver said the accuser told her what happened two days after the alleged attack then, sometime afterward, told Weaver she couldn’t remember what happened.
“So two different versions?” asked Mays’ attorney Adam Nemann.
“Yes,” Weaver replied.
Earlier, Weaver testified that the accuser was flirting at the party with Richmond.
Both Weaver and schoolmate Gianna Anile testified they were angry at the accuser because she was drinking heavily at the party and because of her behavior, which they said included rolling around on the floor. They said they tried unsuccessfully to get her to stop drinking.
Anile said she also tried to get her friend to stay at the party rather than leave with others, including the two defendants.
“When I told her not to leave, I was trying to, like, pull her back into the party. She was trying to shrug me off,” Anile testified. “She kind of hit me.”
The day after the party, when Anile and another friend picked up the accuser from the house where she’d stayed, the accuser said she had no memory of the night before, Anile testified under questioning by defense attorney Walter Madison.
“‘We didn’t have sex, I swear,’” Anile said, describing the accuser’s comment.
But testimony Friday from three teenage boys granted immunity incriminated the defendants.
Mark Cole, Evan Westlake and Anthony Craig said the West Virginia girl was drunk and didn’t seem to know what was happening to her that night. They said she was digitally penetrated in a car and later on a basement floor.
Cole testified that he took a video of Mays and the girl in the car, then deleted it later that morning. He testified he saw Mays unsuccessfully try to have the girl perform oral sex on him later in the basement of Cole’s house. Cole also testified that the girl was intoxicated and slurring her words.
Westlake testified he saw Richmond’s encounter with the girl in the basement, as did Craig. Westlake also confirmed that he filmed a 12-minute video, later passed around widely online, in which another student joked about the attack.
Craig testified that he saw Richmond’s hand in the “crotch region” of the girl, a less descriptive version than he gave last fall in another hearing.
If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail until they turn 21.
The Associated Press normally doesn’t 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 at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.