Ohio crime lab expert testifies about cell phone conversations in Steubenville rape case

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A teen accused of raping a drunk 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer in Steubenville sent and received a flood of text messages in the aftermath of the incident, initially saying he had sex with the girl and then denying it as more teens sent texts questioning what happened.

The texts were read into the record today by a prosecution witness in the rape trial of Trent Mays and Malik Richmond.

Trent, 17, one of two Steubenville High School football players accused of raping the girl on Aug. 11, initially told another teen that he had sex with the girl but later texted that she masturbated him while he penetrated her with his fingers in the basement of a friend's house.

At least one photo described by witnesses shows what they said appears to be semen on the girl.

On Aug. 12, a friend asked Trent in a text if he had sex with her.

He texted back: "Yep."

He later told another friend that the girl came to the party, brought food and had sex. "She knew what's up."

The other teen texted: "You're a felon."

"Not really," Trent replied.

Trent said in another text that "I shoulda raped now that everybody thinks I did" but that the girl "wasn't awake enough." When more teens and parents became involved and began asking questions, he asked his friends to cover for him by saying he had helped the girl to bed and didn't have sexual relations with her.

In other texts, the alleged victim told her friends she didn't know what happened to her and expressed outrage when she read messages from others that she had been assaulted while nearly passed out from drinking.

"I swear to God," she said in one message, "I don't remember doing anything with them. I remember hearing Trent's voice telling me to do something, but I said no."

She said in another text that, "I wasn't being a slut. They were taking advantage of me." She also told her friends she thought she had been drugged.

All of the texts were recovered by JoAnn Gibb, a forensic specialist with the Ohio crime lab who examined tens of thousands of texts and images on Trent's phone and 16 others seized by police in the week after the alleged assaults.

She spent the day reading the profanity-laced messages to and from Trent and other teens from Aug. 12 to Aug. 14, when police confiscated the phones.

The prosecution is using the messages to implicate Trent and his friend, Malik Richmond, 16.

Trent is accused of digitally penetrating the girl in a car. Malik is charged with doing the same in the basement of a house while Trent attempted to force her into oral sex.

Most of the day's testimony focused on Trent's messages, but Ms. Gibb did relate one pertaining to Malik. When a friend asked him if he did anything with the girl, he replied in a text that he performed oral sex on her.

The trial will resume Friday and extend into Sunday, the judge said.

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


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