STEUBENVILLE - An attorney representing one of two Steubenville High School student-athletes who have been charged in an alleged rape case filed motions in Jefferson County juvenile court Friday that seek a change of venue, ask that the upcoming trial be closed to the public and media and request a continuance of the trial.
Defense attorney Walter Madison has said social media comments about the case have caused potential witnesses to stop talking to him. He also said the environment created by the social media content is causing people not to become directly involved in the case.
"Too much is going on in the county," he said, referring to cyber threats, an e-mail that shut down the police chief's computer and schools being placed on lockdown because of safety concerns.
"No one wants to voluntarily make themselves a victim of that," Madison said in reference to witnesses who have stopped talking to him about the case.
Visiting Judge Tom Lipps took part in a conference call with juvenile court officials Friday concerning the motions filed by Madison. The court did not release copies of the motions filed Friday, but the motions will be made available to the media next week, a juvenile court official said.
Lipps has scheduled a hearing on Madison's motions for 1 p.m. Jan. 25 in the juvenile courtroom at the Jefferson County Justice Center.
The trial for both boys is scheduled to begin Feb. 13 in the Jefferson County Justice Center. One of them also has been charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. There will be no jury. Lipps will make the decision of guilt or innocence. Attorneys for both defendants have denied the charges in court.
The second defendant's attorney, Adam Nemann of Columbus, was not part of the motion filed in juvenile court Friday, but Nemann told Lipps he plans to file motions for a change of venue and for a continuance of the trial.
Nemann has been quoted in media accounts of the case as saying he is concerned that the postings on social media may result in potential witnesses being reluctant to testify and that they may invoke their Fifth Amendment right to avoid of self-incrimination in criminal cases.
The media will be allowed to have attorneys present on Jan. 25 to argue that the Feb. 13 trial should not be closed to the press.
City Police Chief William McCafferty said his department has not received any complaints about threats from people who may be called to testify in the case.
Juvenile court officials said special precautions will be in place for the trial to protect witnesses so there is no security risk to people in the justice center during the trial.
Witnesses said the alleged incident occurred on the night of Aug. 11 into the morning of Aug. 12. The victim's parents came to city police on Aug. 14 to file a report.
Lipps ruled on Oct. 12 there was probable cause for the case to go to trial. Lipps decided on Nov. 1 that both defendants will remain in juvenile court and not have their case transferred to adult court.