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Steubenville rape: More charges possible with grand jury probe

March 17, 2013|By Tina Susman

Two Steubenville teenagers convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl began serving time in juvenile detention Sunday, but more people could face charges if a grand jury investigation determines that witnesses, the defendants' athletic coaches, or others turned a blind eye to the assaults.

"I've reached the conclusion that this investigation ... simply cannot be completed, that we cannot bring finality to this matter, without the convening of a grand jury," Ohio's attorney general, Mike DeWine, told a news conference shortly after Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, were convicted.

Judge Thomas Lipps, who heard the case in juvenile court without a jury, found both boys guilty of rape. Mays was also convicted of distributing nudity-oriented material because he had pictures of the naked victim on his cellphone.

Richmond was sentenced to one year in a juvenile detention facility; Mays received two years.

DeWine, whose office stepped in to handle the investigation in August at the request of Steubenville authorities, made clear that some potential witnesses had stonewalled his investigators. He said they had identified 43 people, nearly all juveniles, who had attended one of the parties Aug. 11 and early Aug. 12, where the defendants and the victim were. Twenty-seven of them had been interviewed, but 16 "refused to cooperate, giving various reasons," DeWine said.

Other people interviewed so far include 27 athletic coaches from Steubenville High School, where the defendants were star football players; and the owners of a house where the teens involved in the case were partying.

In addition, cyber-crime experts have analyzed 13 cellphones. From those phones, DeWine said, they have reviewed and analyzed 396,270 text messages; 308,586 photos; 940 video clips; 3,188 phone calls; and 16,422 contacts listed in the phones.

The numbers give an idea of the technical depth of this case, which hinged on incriminating texts, pictures and videos shared among teenagers the night of the attacks.

Victims' advocates have said that witnesses who admitted in court seeing the rapes -- one occurred in the back seat of a car and the second in a house -- should be charged with failing to report a felony. DeWine said that "mandatory reporters" such as school officials, who by law are required to report crimes involving the children in their care, could be among those drawn into the investigation.

"It's going to be broad, and we will follow the evidence wherever that evidence takes us," DeWine said.

Then, DeWine switched off his official voice and said he wanted to speak as a parent and a grandparent. He lamented the use of social media to chronicle the girl's rapes, saying she had been "continually re-victimized in social media."

And he blasted what he called an "unbelievable casualness about rape and about sex" that he said was prevalent in small towns like Steubenville, and in larger cities across the country.

"It's a cavalier attitude -- the belief that somehow there isn't anything wrong with any of this," DeWine said. "Rape is not a recreational activity."

tina.susman@latimes.com 

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