Steubenville, Ohio, man in viral video protests innocence

Steubenville man joked about alleged rape

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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- A young Steubenville man shown in a viral video making jokes and providing graphic details about an alleged rape victim has hired an attorney who says his client is innocent in the case and did not witness the incident.

The video depicts Michael Nodianos, 18, laughing as he compares the alleged rape to other sexual assault cases that have garnered national media attention and jokes that the girl was dead because she did not awaken from her unconscious state during the alleged attack.

His attorney, Dennis McNamara, held a news conference Monday in Steubenville in which he described the video as "disgusting" and "disappointing, insensitive and unfortunate."

The video was filmed early Aug. 12 after a 16-year-old West Virginia girl allegedly was raped when she attended a series of end-of-the-summer parties in the Ohio town of 19,000. It was posted to YouTube shortly after the attack is said to have occurred and then was taken down.

Trent Mays, quarterback of the Steubenville High School Big Red football team, and wide receiver Ma'lik Richmond, both 16, were arrested Aug. 22 and charged as juveniles in the alleged attack. They were released on home arrest Nov. 1 and are scheduled to go to trial in juvenile court Feb. 13.

The case began to attract national media attention last week, when an activist group that calls itself Anonymous and is known for hacking provided the video and other pictures taken during the alleged attack to the blog LocalLeaks. The blog and Anonymous have called for the arrest of Mr. Nodianos, who has not been charged in the case.

More than 800 people protested Saturday outside the Jefferson County Courthouse, demanding a more thorough investigation.

Speaking on behalf of the Nodianos family, Mr. McNamara said his client's statements were based on secondhand knowledge and he did not witness the alleged attack. He said Mr. Nodianos cooperated with police and was not asked to be a witness in the trial.

He said Mr. Nodianos and the 16-year-old girl were at a party at the same time Aug. 11 and his client left around midnight. He said Mr. Nodianos did not know her and was unaware that she was at the party.

Mr. Nodianos, who had been drinking, and his friend went to McDonald's and then went to a second house, which the girl was leaving with the suspects as he entered, Mr. McNamara said.

The attorney said she was taken to a third house, where the rape is said to have occurred. He said the video was made after witnesses to the alleged rape arrived at the second house and told Mr. Nodianos about it.

Steubenville police Chief Bill McCafferty confirmed that authorities believe the rape occurred at a third location. When asked about additional charges, he said the case is still under investigation.

Mr. McNamara said Mr. Nodianos' email account through Ohio State University and those of his family members have been hacked, and Facebook and Twitter accounts that he deleted were restored last week with posts he never made.

Mr. Nodianos attended Ohio State University on an academic scholarship in the fall and elected not to return this term.

"There's no excuse or justification for the comments Michael made in the video, and with some sober reflection, he is ashamed and embarrassed to hear them himself," Mr. McNamara said.

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Taryn Luna: tluna@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1985.


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