The Aftermath Shown in Texts
STEUBENVILLE – A computer analyst on Thursday read aloud hundreds of text messages exchanged between teenagers in the days after two Steubenville High School students allegedly raped a 15-year-old girl in August.
Assistant Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter, acting as special prosecutor, began the second day of the trial by establishing the ownership of some of the cell phones of those involved in the case, and that the phones were seized properly.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Ellenberger testified that he seized three phones from the Steubenville High School football locker room. Steubenville Police Capt. Joel Walker Jr. seized another phone from a residence. That phone, he testified, contained two nude images of the alleged victim.
According to Hemmeter, that phone belonged to a young man shown making derogatory comments about the victim in a 12-minute video that was posted online.
Joann Gibb, a computer forensic specialist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said the 17 phones law enforcement seized contained hundreds of thousands of messages. She read hundreds of those messages from a thick binder during about three hours of testimony Thursday.
The 17-year-old defendant exchanged dozens of texts the day after the alleged crime, addressing questions about what had transpired between him and the girl, who many referred to in their messages as being “dead.”
In several of the messages, the defendant said he did not have sexual intercourse with the girl, but he indicated he did touch her in a sexual manner. He represented to at least one person, however, that he did have intercourse with the girl, while still telling others that nothing sexual had transpired between the two.
The messages exchanged between the 17-year-old defendant and his male friends were boastful about what reportedly happened between him and the girl, while others requested pictures and videos of her. In addition to rape, the boy is also accused of sending a naked picture of the girl with his cell phone.
Gibb also read texts from the alleged victim, who questioned others about the events of the night. According to the messages, the girl remembered almost nothing after leaving the first party of the night; she could only recall vomiting in the road.
One Steubenville High School student reportedly told the girl that when he last saw her, she was completely naked with the defendants on the floor at the alleged crime scene. She expressed outrage that the boy did not intercede, according to the messages Gibb read aloud.
“I wasn’t being a slut,” the Weirton girl reportedly messaged. “They were taking advantage of me.”
Gibb represented that the 17-year-old defendant and others exchanged messages of concern after adults started contacting Steubenville High School football coaches. One boy told the defendant to “deny to the grave,” while another team member reported that he lied to the coaches on the defendant’s behalf.
That is when the defendant texted the alleged victim’s father, saying the conjecture about that night was a “big misunderstanding” and that he never tried to have sexual contact with the girl.
The same defendant reportedly later messaged someone that “I got (head football coach) Reno (Saccoccia). He took care of it.” He also indicated the defendant would suffer no consequences, even if the allegations proceeded to a courtroom.
Under questioning from defense attorney Brian Duncan, Gibb admitted she could not verify the defendant sent the messages. She could only confirm they were delivered from his phone.
A college freshman and Steubenville High School graduate testified that the alleged victim was stumbling and slurring her words when he saw her the night of the crime. He told the court that he saw the girl drinking alcohol out of a plastic cup.
Walter Madison, attorney for the 16-year-old defendant, subsequently presented an identical cup and entered it into evidence.
BCI Special Agent Edward Lulla examined the alleged crime scene four days after it was reported. Lulla, who is also a former Steubenville police officer, used forensic equipment to collect evidence from the couch and adjacent floor of the home where the alleged rape occurred.
He also collected a blanket, as well as the clothes the alleged victim was wearing the night of the crime, but noted that they had been washed before he seized them. Lulla turned the evidence over to the BCI laboratory. He did not testify about the results of the analysis, however.
Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. today before visiting Judge Thomas Lipps. Three of the defendants’ classmates, who testified at an October hearing that they witnessed both the defendants rape the girl, are expected to be the first called to the stand.