Experts tie DNA evidence to Steubenville football player in rape trial
Steubenville High students accused of sexually assaulting intoxicated teen
March 16, 2013 8:00 AM
Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Trent Mays, 17, left, and co-defendant 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond sit in court before the start of the third day of their trial on rape charges in juvenile court Friday in Steubenville, Ohio.
By Torsten Ove Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
STEUBENVILLE -- Crime lab experts testified Friday in the trial of two Steubenville High School football players accused of raping a highly intoxicated 16-year-old girl that they found DNA evidence on a blanket that matched one of the accused boys.
Forensics experts with Ohio's state crime lab said they recovered samples from a blanket that authorities say Trent Mays, 17, used to cover himself and the girl as they slept on a couch after the alleged assault in the home of a friend, Mark Cole, in the early morning of Aug. 12.
In text messages from Trent that were read into the record earlier in the trial, he had told a female friend that the alleged victim masturbated him after a night of heavy drinking last summer.
The DNA testimony marked the third day of a nonjury juvenile trial for Trent and his friend, Malik Richmond, 16, at the Jefferson County Justice Center in Steubenville.
Prosecutors contend the girl was so intoxicated that she was unable to consent to sexual activity. The defense contends that any sexual activity was consensual.
Earlier Friday, three friends of the boys who said they witnessed the assaults and testified against them at a preliminary hearing in October invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and received immunity from Judge Thomas Lipps for their testimony.
The state attorney general's office had previously sent each a letter saying agents could not find enough evidence to charge them with any crimes. Two of them admitted to taking pictures or videos of the assault, but the state crime lab was unable to recover those images. That's the only reason, the attorney general's office said, that they were not charged.
All three reluctantly took the stand in October and again Friday, saying they saw the girl -- so intoxicated that some referred to her as a "dead body" -- lying naked and unresponsive on the floor of Mark Cole's basement while Trent and Malik assaulted her.
Mark, 17, said he saw Trent first assault the girl in his car on the night of Aug. 11 on their way to Mark's house after an end-of-summer party at the home of Kamy Bellardine attended by about 50 juveniles, most of them getting drunk on beer and liquor. The girl, whom the Post-Gazette is not identifying, was extremely intoxicated, according to numerous witnesses.
Later in the basement, Mark said, he saw Trent trying to have the girl participate in oral sex as she lay naked on the floor while Malik lay behind her and digitally penetrated her.
Asked why he videotaped the first act in the car, he said he was being dumb.
He said he deleted the video from his phone the next day.
The prosecution also homed in on texts that Mark had sent indicating he knew that the girl was going to be sexually assaulted. In one, sent at 2:38 a.m., he warned Trent: "Seriously, dude, don't rape her."
Another boy who received immunity, Anthony Craig, said he took two pictures of what he saw because "I was stupid" and, after he left the house, showed them to his buddies who had gathered at Jake Howarth's home.
Later, at Jake's house, he filmed another boy, Michael Nodianos, joking at length about the sexual incident, although Michael did not witness it. Another friend, Evan Westlake, said he posted Michael's drunken 12-minute rant on YouTube under the tagline "deadgirl." It was that video that sparked a firestorm of outrage on social media in Steubenville and across the U.S.
While the Ohio crime lab was unable to find images on 17 cell phones police seized in the aftermath of the incident, technicians did recover hundreds of incriminating text messages among the various partygoers that night and in the days that followed.
Much of the prosecution's case has been based on those texts.
The afternoon after the incident, for example, Trent sent Mark a text asking him to send the video he had shot in the car. Mark refused.
When Trent persisted, Mark responded that any pictures could be used to prosecute them.