The Tip of the Iceberg: Social Media Brings Guilty Verdict in Steubenville Rape Case

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Texting in Steubenville rape caseThis past weekend, a Jefferson County judge found Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt of rape and distribution of a nude image of a minor.

The sensational circumstances surrounding the two Steubenville high-profile football players, and the accompanying social media frenzy, drew international attention to the Ohio Valley town.

During a night of partying in August, the boys and the victim, a 16-year-old Weirton, West Virginian girl, were drinking. Testimony indicated that the assault occurred while the girl was drunk and subsequently passed out.

During the trial, the most damaging evidence for the defense came in the form of text messages recovered from cell phones belonging to the accused, the victim, a witness, and friends and acquaintances of those parties.

The most appalling piece of evidence was a photo of the two boys dragging the unconscious victim by her arms and legs.

Joann Gibb, who works for the Ohio state lab, retrieved hundreds of text messages from the 17 phones seized during the investigation. During her four hours of testimony, she read graphic and often expletive-laced text messages that went back and forth like a pinball between the Steubenville-area teens following this hideous event.

While the defendants admitted they knew they had committed a crime, the most shocking text came from the 17-year-old Mays to a friend wherein he said, “I got Reno. He took care of it and sh– ain’t gonna happen, even if they take it to court.”

This young man was referring, of course, to Reno Saccoccia, the head coach of the Steubenville powerhouse football team.

Enter Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Moments after the courtroom cleared on Sunday, DeWine announced that a grand jury would be convened on April 15 to investigate whether more charges would be filed against others. He said that his office will use information gathered by more than 15 state investigative agents who have already interviewed 56 people, including the high school principle, district superintendant and 27 other football coaches. Sixteen people refused to cooperate.

Because the defendants, Mays and Richmond, are juveniles, Judge Tom Lipps was limited to sentencing the boys to the Ohio Department of Youth Services for two years and one year, respectively.”

Special Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said, “They showed absolutely no regard for what happened to the victim.

The crimes committed on that August evening are in and of themselves horrific, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. In the ensuing weeks and months, we will learn that coaches, parents, administrators, and family friends circled the wagons to protect these star players and their esteemed football program at the expense of pursuing justice for a 16-year-old girl.

They repeatedly failed to do the right thing, a reality we have seen time and time again in juvenile rape cases involving groups and institutions such as the Catholic Church and Penn State university.

Hopefully, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s investigation and subsequent criminal prosecution will show that in the age of social media everything we do and say is transparent, and the days of a good ol’ fashioned cover-up are long gone.

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