Teens tweeting on Steubenville put on house arrest

Girls made threats to rape victim

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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- Two 16-year-old girls accused of sending threatening tweets about the Steubenville rape victim were released on house arrest and ordered not to use social media.

At an adjudication hearing Wednesday, the prosecution accepted the defense's request to remove the girls from juvenile detention -- as long as they don't contact the victim and refrain from using Facebook and Twitter. They are permitted to go back to school and participate in sports or extracurricular activities.

"I think the rationale is they have demonstrated an immaturity in using those outlets," said Jefferson County assistant prosecutor Sam Pate. "And so it's just like a child -- you take away their toy if they don't know how to play with it properly."

But there is no official list of what Web-based platforms the teens are barred from using, Mr. Pate said, although he said it certainly includes Facebook and Twitter. Mr. Pate said they won't be constantly tracking the girls' online activity, but if they receive reports that they are back on social media, authorities will investigate.

Francesca Carinci, an attorney for one of the girls, said she would encourage her client's parents to deactivate the girl's social media accounts.

Mr. Pate warned that if the girls violate the terms of their house arrest, they could return to juvenile detention, where they had been confined since March 18. A day earlier, a judge ruled that Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond raped a 16-year-old girl.

The two girls have been charged with intimidation of a victim, a felony, and aggravated menacing and telecommunications harassment, both misdemeanors. The pair entered a denial on all charges, the equivalent of a not guilty plea in adult criminal court.

One girl, a cousin of Ma'lik, tweeted: "You ripped my family apart, you made my cousin cry, so when I see you. ... it's going to be a homicide."

Her sister and guardian, Raven Harris, said the girl was quoting a lyric by Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill.

The other girl tweeted that she would beat up the victim, whose first name she used.

During the hearing, Ms. Carinci raised questions about whether Jefferson County has jurisdiction to charge her client because she said the transmissions may have originated in West Virginia.

Mr. Pate said jurisdiction should not be an issue because "the fact that [the tweet] found its way into the state of Ohio gives us jurisdiction."

Judge Samuel W. Kerr agreed to turn Ms. Carinci's client's cell phone over to the defense to allow them to conduct their own examination of where the transmissions were made.

The next stage will be a pretrial hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede. Alex Zimmerman: azimmerman@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909. First Published March 27, 2013 12:30 AM


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