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Lawyer defends teen who was videotaped laughing about Ohio rape case

January 07, 2013|By Tina Susman
  • Demonstrators gather at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, to protest the handling of a rape case.
Demonstrators gather at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville,… (Michael D. McElwain / Steubenville…)

An Ohio teenager videotaped laughing hysterically as he makes jokes for more than 12 minutes about the alleged rape of a 16-year-old girl is "ashamed and embarrassed" but had nothing to do with the criminal case that has roiled his small town, an attorney said Monday.

The attorney, Dennis McNamara, described himself as a spokesman for the family of the 18-year-old, identified only as Michael. Michael has not been charged with a crime, but his comments and cackling laughter have helped catapult the Steubenville, Ohio, case to national attention.

Some critics have accused prosecutors of not pursuing possible perpetrators as actively as they should have because of deference to the town's football culture. Police say they have been hampered by witnesses' reluctance to come forward, by the time lapse between the alleged rape and the reporting of it, and by the apparent erasing of digital images recorded by witnesses of the incident.

Two Steubenville high school football players, Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16, are accused of raping a drunk, unconscious girl at a party last August while other students used social media to share information about what was happening. Last week, someone leaked the video of Michael joking about the incident shortly after it was reported to have taken place, fueling interest in the case.

In the video, Michael refers repeatedly to the girl as "dead" as he laughs about her being raped and urinated on. "That's how you know she's dead --- cuz someone peed on her," he says at one point, between laughter.

McNamara said the video was made in the early morning hours of Aug. 12, 2012, after Michael and some friends had left one party, stopped at a McDonald's and then headed to a second house to continue drinking and partying. As they arrived at the second house, McNamara said, they briefly crossed paths with the girl, who was leaving. "She left just as Michael was arriving," McNamara said, adding that he was not clear about whether she was able to walk out of the house on her own.

From there, she went to another home where the alleged assault took place, McNamara said. He said Michael stayed at the second house and never took part in or witnessed the attack at the other location. Asked how he was able to discuss in detail the girl's demeanor and the reported attack, McNamara explained that Michael was relating what others at the scene had told him.

"Everything he knew came from the reports of a couple of other young people," said McNamara, who said Michael had graduated from high school with honors, received an academic scholarship to attend Ohio State University, and "has never been in trouble." Asked why the youth needed a lawyer, McNamara said the family merely wanted help "clearing the air" about Michael's role.

Since the video was leaked, he said, the teen's email, Facebook and Twitter accounts, which had been deactivated, have been hacked and that his mother, father and even his grandfather have been harassed. Asked whether Michael had committed a crime by failing to report what others were telling him about the purported rape, he said: "I don't believe it's a crime, but it's stupid."

The two accused of the rape are schedule to go on trial Feb. 13.

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