Steubenville rape trial begins

Prosecutors say girl too drunk to consent


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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- A 16-year-old girl was so intoxicated from drinking blue slushes spiked with vodka last August that she could not consent to sex with two high school football players charged with raping her after a night of partying, prosecutors said Wednesday.

In the first day of a nonjury trial for the players, Malik Richmond and Trent Mays, Assistant Ohio Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter said the two degraded the girl and used her as a "toy" by assaulting her, taking photos of her naked and texting the images to friends.

Ms. Hemmeter told Judge Thomas Lipps that she would prove the girl, who attended a Catholic high school across the Ohio River in West Virginia, was "somebody who was too impaired to say no, somebody who was too impaired to say stop."

Ms. Hemmeter said Trent, 17, penetrated her with his fingers in the back of a car while she was too drunk to know what was happening. Malik, 16, is accused of doing the same thing in the basement of a friend's house later that night while Trent tried to get her to have oral sex.

Lawyers for the boys deny their clients raped the girl and have indicated they will attempt to show that she was alert and able to give consent.

The case has divided the small town of 18,000 amid allegations that police should have brought charges against more students who watched what happened, passed around photos or joked about it online. Media interest has been so intense that officials at the Jefferson County Justice Center have set up separate rooms for reporters to watch on closed-circuit TV and instituted special security measures.

The first day of testimony from teen witnesses did not shed much new light on the allegations, but one boy did admit that he offered to pay his pals $3 if they would urinate on the girl as she sat in the street shirtless.

"That was me," said Patrick Pizzoferrato, 17. "But it was a joke."

No one took him up on his offer, he said.

He also said another friend, Anthony Craig, showed him a cell phone photo of the girl on her hands and knees with Trent behind her as if he had just had sex with her.

But, he said, he saw no penetration.

The state will have to rely almost exclusively on testimony about what individuals saw in person or online. Prosecutors have very little physical evidence because the state's crime lab was unable to find images of sex acts on any of the 17 cell phones and mobile devices police seized from various teens.

Testimony earlier in the day focused on establishing the girl's level of intoxication, first at the home of Kamy Bellardine, where the initial party was held, and later at two other houses.

One witness, Julia Lefever, 17, said she and the girl were drinking vodka slushes at the Bellardine home, pouring from a bottle the girl brought with her for a sleepover.

Julia said her friend started drinking at 8:30 p.m. and got drunk quickly, stumbling and slurring her words.

When the girl wanted to leave the party several hours later with Trent, Malik and other boys, Julia said she tried to intervene but the girl said she was fine.

When she picked the girl up the next morning at the home of Mark Cole, where one of the assaults is alleged to have occurred, she said her friend was "a mess" but could not recall what happened. By then, images and texts had circulated in cyberspace about the events of the previous night.

"She started crying and said, 'I don't remember anything,' " Julia said.

Although the girl will testify in open court and her name has been released online, the Post-Gazette does not name accusers in sex cases without their consent.

The nonjury trial in juvenile court will resume this morning and is expected to last at least until Friday.

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Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510.


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