Both Sides Want Rape Trial Closed

STEUBENVILLE – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is joining attorneys for the two defendants in the Steubenville rape case and also the alleged victim’s attorney in calling for the case to be closed to the public.

Lawyer Robert Fitzsimmons of Wheeling, who represents the victim, filed a motion Tuesday in Jefferson County Juvenile Court asking that he and the victim’s parents be allowed to be present at the trial for the two juveniles but that the public and media be barred.

Two 16-year-old boys have been charged with allegedly raping the victim Aug. 11-12. One also faces a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material for allegedly having a picture of the victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone. Attorneys for both defendants have denied the charges in court.

Fitzsimmons will join attorney Walter Madison, who represents one of the accused, in a hearing at 1 p.m. Friday in the Jefferson County Justice Center concerning motions filed in the case, including the closure of proceedings. Attorneys representing news organizations are expected to argue that the trial be open to the media.

Madison also has requested the trial be held elsewhere and that the trial, which is scheduled to start Feb. 13, be continued. Attorney Brian Duncan, who represents the other defendant, also has filed a motion for continuance.

Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps earlier this week overruled a motion by Madison requesting that the two boys have separate trials. Lipps will make the determination of guilt or innocence after the trial and there will be no jury.

Fitzsimmons, in his motion to close further proceedings, said the hearings will involve “highly sensitive and personal matters” for his 16-year-old client, whom he refers to only as “Jane Doe” in the motion. He claims the media and the public will hear inadmissible evidence during the hearings.

“Jane Doe has, to the extent possible, kept her anonymity throughout these proceedings and rightly so as a 16-year-old victim. Closure will help preserve that anonymity and more importantly keep inadmissible evidence from being published by the public in whatever fashion they elect,” he said in his motion. “Jane Doe acknowledges the press’ right, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, to cover newsworthy events. However, this right is not boundless. This court is already aware of the massive media and public attention generated by these cases and closure is the only alternative that can protect Jane Doe from improper use of inadmissible evidence that is either proffered, tendered or argued in open court.”

Fitzsimmons said his client is not requesting to be present throughout the proceedings, only her parents.

DeWine said he’s met with the girl and she’s “doing OK.”

“We’re dealing with a 16-year-old victim,” DeWine said. “It’s difficult enough for her to testify without testifying in front of the whole world.”

DeWine said Wednesday the girl will testify whether the trial is closed or not.

“I just think it’s the right thing to do under all the circumstances for it to be closed for her,” DeWine said.

Madison, in his motion to close the hearings and trial to the public and media, said many people who have posted items on the Internet believe his client and the co-defendant, other members of the high school football team and certain members of the public are guilty of the alleged crime.