Rape Trial Opens With Focus on Girl’s Drinking

STEUBENVILLE – The defense in the Steubenville rape case will try to prove the victim wasn’t so intoxicated that she couldn’t make decisions, but the prosecution said the girl was stumbling as she tried to walk, was slurring her speech and was vomiting.

Two Steubenville High School football players – a 17-year-old from Bloomingdale and a 16-year-old from Steubenville – are charged with rape in connection with an incident that 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.

The Intelligencer does not publish names of juveniles who have been accused of crimes but who have not been charged as adults.

Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps heard the first day of testimony Wednesday in the juvenile courtroom at the Jefferson County Justice Center. Six witnesses were called to the stand, including four young people who said they saw the victim the night of the alleged rape. Two police officers were called to testify about transporting evidence to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation lab for processing.

During opening statements, prosecuting attorney Marianne Hemmeter of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office said the boys took advantage of the victim when she was most vulnerable. Hemmeter said the two defendants “treated her like a toy.”

Testimony indicated the juveniles involved attended parties at three homes in Steubenville on Aug. 11-12. Witnesses testified the victim was drinking vodka and became intoxicated. She allegedly was taken by the two defendants to a second party, where she became ill at least twice, before being driven to a third house.

Hemmeter said on the way, one of the boys unzipped the victim’s shorts and touched her body. A boy who is not charged with a crime recorded the incident with his cell phone, she said. Hemmeter said the victim was treated the same way in the basement of one of the homes. She said a photograph was taken of the victim that appeared to show semen on her.

Hemmeter said one defendant’s DNA was a match to semen found on a blanket at that house.

Attorney Walter Madison, representing one of the boys, had no opening statement. Attorney Brian Duncan, representing the other, said the prosecution won’t be able to prove a rape occurred.

A Steubenville Catholic Central High School student testified that she was friends with the victim even though they attended different schools. The girl said she and the victim on Aug. 11 went to the first party, where she and the victim were drinking vodka. She said the victim got drunk quickly and was slurring her words and stumbling when she walked. The girl also said she saw the victim talking to one of the defendants during the evening.

The girl said when that party was broken up around 12:30 a.m. Aug. 12, she told the victim to stay there because the victim’s mother knew the girls were spending the night together. The witness said she left and returned to the house to get other girls to help, but the victim and one of the defendants were gone.

When she went to get the victim at another home the morning of Aug. 12, the witness said, the victim “looked like a mess,” was confused and her shirt was inside out. The girl said both defendants were in the basement of that house and told her nothing had happened.

The victim, when being driven away from the house, was asked what happened. The witness said the victim laid down in the backseat and started crying, saying she didn’t remember.

A female Steubenville High School student said she was with her boyfriend at his house when people left the first party and started to show up there. She said the victim vomited in the bathroom as soon as she came into the house. The witness said she sat with the victim on the couch, trying to convince her to go back to the first house because her boyfriend said the victim had to leave.

The girl testified the victim stumbled and fell trying to get to the door. She said the defendants then grabbed the victim by her arms and legs and tried to carry her out. An infamous picture was taken of the moment and posted on social media.

On cross examination by Madison, the girl said it appeared the victim was able to verbally respond to others at the second house. She told attorney Adam Nemann, another attorney representing a defendant, that she stopped being friends with the victim when the victim began putting inappropriate things on the Internet.

A freshman at Ashland University who is also a Steubenville High School graduate said about 12 people from the first party came to his house, where he said no alcohol was consumed. He said his parents were upstairs sleeping.

He said he saw the victim with both defendants, one of whom told him the victim had to use the bathroom to throw up. The witness said the victim appeared drunk and was stumbling toward the bathroom. After the victim threw up, he told her she had to leave.

Madison asked the witness about the impact of the night. He said his family received threats and was victimized by Internet hackers and that he was referred to as a member of the “rape crew.”