Judge expected to rule next week on motions in Steubenville rape case

STEUBENVILLE – Visiting Juvenile Judge Tom Lipps is expected to rule next week on several motions in the case of two Steubenville High School student-athletes charged with rape, including those seeking to close the trial to the media and public.

Lipps also heard arguments Friday in the juvenile courtroom of the Jefferson County Justice Center on motions to continue the trial and move it to another county.

Two 16-year-old boys have been charged with rape in connection with an incident that allegedly happened Aug. 11-12. One of them 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.

One of the boys’ attorneys, Walter Madison, withdrew a motion he had made earlier asking the trial be held behind closed doors. An attorney for the 16-year-old alleged victim, however, argued the trial should be closed.

Special Prosecutor Marriane Hemmeter, appointed by the Ohio Attorney General’s office, said the state’s position on the issue has changed since a probable cause hearing in October during which the alleged victim didn’t testify. She said the girl will take the stand in the trial.

Attorney Kevin Shook, representing The Associated Press, ABC, CNN, CBS News, The New York Times and WEWS-TV, told Lipps closing the case will only increase the outside perception of a cover-up in the investigation and prosecution of the case.

He said people will talk about the case whether closed or open.

“Let’s make sure they talk about it accurately,” he said, in reference to allowing the media to cover and report on the hearing.

Kristen Andrews Wilson, representing the Ogden Newspapers, said there are rules and standards in courtrooms to make sure the truth, rather than rumors, is told.

“If the public can see the truth, it can limit speculation and rumors up to this point,” she said.

See Saturday’s edition of The Intelligencer for more details.