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Steubenville rape case: Online petition, 70,000 strong, seeks justice

January 24, 2013|By Michael Muskal
  • People demand justice in the Steubenville rape case at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio.
People demand justice in the Steubenville rape case at the Jefferson County… (Thomas Ondrey / The Plain…)

A petition was presented Thursday to the Ohio attorney general’s office, calling for a continuing investigation of the Steubenville rape case that shocked the nation.

The online petition, with 70,000 signatures, calls on Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine’s office to continue investigating the incident to ensure all of the people who were involved, either directly or as onlookers, are prosecuted, Kate Londen, communications manager for Choice USA, told the Los Angeles Times.

Two high school football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, have been accused of raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl at an alcohol-fueled party Aug. 11. Other partygoers, including athletes, used social media to propagate the alleged attack, especially through Twitter and by posting pictures on Instagram.

“We want to make sure everybody involved in this crime is fully investigated and justice is served,” Londen said.

The Ohio chapter of Choice USA formally presented the petition to DeWine’s office in Columbus on Thursday morning. Another group, UltraViolet, which says it works for equal rights, also gathered signatures.

“To see one person so disrespected hurts the victim and damages the whole community, and Ohio deserves better than that,” said Diana Sencherey, Choice USA chapter leader at Ohio State University.

“Seventy thousand UltraViolet members stand behind the students in Ohio today in saying enough is enough. There have been far too many 'get out of jail free' cards in this case, and AG Mike DeWine should know the whole world is watching Steubenville and we look forward to his response,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a prepared statement.

The Steubenville rape case has drawn international attention and has been compared by some to a rape case in India because both have raised questions about how their respective societies view women.

Steubenville, a city of about 18,000 in eastern Ohio, is a town, like many, that reveres its high school sports programs.

It wasn’t until three days after the alleged rape that the case was reported to police. On Aug. 22, the athletes were arrested and are expected to go on trial next month.

Many believe that charges would never have been filed without the pressure of social media, especially the pictures, one of which showed the unconscious girl. Supporters of the men say social media was used to stage a public lynching and that the victim brought it on herself because she was trying to curry favor with athletes and had placed herself in a bad situation.

Others argue that municipal and state officials did not go far enough in investigating people at the party and their roles for not stopping the alleged attack. Officials, led by the attorney general’s office, which took over the case at the request of local officials, have said they looked at the others at the party, but did not find enough evidence to make any other cases.

Meanwhile, Judge Thomas Lipps, who is presiding over the case in Jefferson County Juvenile Court, has set a hearing for Friday to hear arguments on whether the trial should be closed to the public. Prosecutors, the alleged victim, her family and one of the defendants have asked to close the trial. News outlets, led by the Associated Press, have sought to keep the proceedings public.

The lawyer for defendant Richmond said the trial should be closed because the widespread publicity, especially from social media groups, could intimidate witnesses.

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