Alleged Steubenville rape victim: 'I couldn't remember anything'
Malik Richmond, 16, and his mother, Daphne Birden, after closing arguments Saturday in his juvenile trial with co-defendant Trent Mays, 17, on rape charges in Steubenville, Ohio. Judge Thomas Lipps said he would render a decision this morning.
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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- In a soft voice, a 16-year-old high school student told Saturday of waking up scared and naked in an unfamiliar house after a night of drinking last summer. Much to her horror, she soon realized her troubles would grow only worse.
For about two hours, the girl testified at the trial of two Steubenville High School football players, Trent Mays, 17, and Malik Richmond, 16, accused of raping her Aug. 11, 2012, after an alcohol-fueled party in Steubenville.
The girl's recounting of the night concluded the testimony in the case. Both the prosecution and defense teams gave closing statements Saturday night in the non-jury trial. Neither defendant testified. Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps, brought in from Hamilton County to hear the case in Jefferson County Juvenile Court, will make his ruling this morning at 10 a.m.
The girl, who the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is not identifying, told Assistant Ohio Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter that she didn't remember much of what happened after leaving a summer party at the home of Kamy Bellardine with Trent after consuming a blue slush spiked with vodka, a shot of vodka and another drink.
She testified that she started feeling drunk at the party and remembers walking out of the house. The next thing she recalled, she said, was waking up on the floor of another home, later identified as that of Mark Cole, naked and "embarrassed and scared."
"I couldn't remember anything," she said.
Prosecutors contend it was during that gap that the girl was sexually assaulted by the two football players. On Friday, Mark, 17, testified that he saw Trent first assault the victim in his car on the way to his house. He said that he later saw Trent try to have the girl participate in oral sex as she lay naked on the floor while Malik lay behind her and digitally penetrated her.
The prosecution argues that the girl was so intoxicated that she was unable to consent to sexual activity that night. The defense contends that any sexual activity was consensual.
After waking up, the victim said she did not ask Trent, Malik or Mark, all of whom were in the house with her, what had happened. She said she had lost her underwear, her cell phone, her earrings and her shoes.
"I was really embarrassed because I did not know what happened at all. I did not know what to think," she said.
Contradicting the statement of a friend who testified earlier Saturday, the girl said she did not say anything in the car after being picked up at the house. Malik and Trent left with her. After they were dropped off, the girl said she started crying because she was "freaked out, worried and scared."
Shown a photo of her being carried by her arms and ankles by two boys she identified as Trent and Malik, she said she did not recall that happening. Nor did she recall being naked and laying on her side, as another photo showed. She broke down once on the witness stand when shown a third photo taken that night.
It was only over the course of the next few days, she said, that she began to piece together what had happened, as people began sending her texts, photos and other information about what had gone on that night.
One piece was a YouTube video that showed a boy, Michael Nodianos, joking at length about the sexual incident even though he did not witness it. The girl said that when she watched the video, "I couldn't stop crying. I just turned it off."
Prodded by her parents, the girl ended up going to the hospital to be examined a couple of days after the incident. But she said she didn't want to give up information.
"Honestly, I was praying that everything I heard wasn't true," she said, adding that she didn't want to get in a "drama" with everyone blaming it on her.
At the hospital, she said, she began receiving texts from Trent, who was "just like freaking out" and "kept asking are you going to tell the police."
"He was trying to get me not to tell anyone," she said.
In a series of text exchanges that followed over a course of days, Trent insisted that he had taken care of her. At one point he wrote, "This is the most pointless thing. I'm going to get into trouble. I should be getting thanked for taking care of you."
But later, after being confronted by the girl, he admitted taking a photo of her naked. He also said in a text that she had masturbated him.
Under questioning from Ms. Hemmeter, the victim said she never used the word "rape" to describe what happened to her. But she also said she did not know that the definition included digital penetration.
Trent continued to press the girl about whether she was going to file charges with police, adding at one point that he was about to get kicked off the football team.
"The more you bring up football, the more pissed I get, like that's all you care about," the girl wrote in one of her last texts to him.
Under cross-examination, the girl admitted that she was interested in Trent and left with him the night of the party because she thought she could trust him. She added that she also thought she could trust what Trent was saying about what happened that night "until I saw the pictures and the video."
As for whether he had taken care of her, "It was pretty clear that he didn't," she said.
Earlier in the day, Gianna Anile, who was a friend of the victim at the time of the incident, said she confronted the girl after reports began circulating on the Internet about what had happened the night before.
Gianna recalled the victim saying about that night, "We didn't have sex, I swear,"
When she asked what did happen, the girl replied, "I don't know. I don't remember," Gianna testified.
She was the one of only three defense witnesses to testify at the trial.
During the party at Kamy's house, Gianna said that she noticed the victim was acting drunk and was rolling around on the floor and "being weird." At the one point, she said she tried to stop the girl from leaving the party to go elsewhere, but was rebuffed. She also recalled the victim drinking more heavily at the party than the victim claimed during her testimony.
Neither Gianna nor another girl who testified Saturday morning, Kelsey Weaver, accompanied the victim to Mark's house that night.
But Gianna said she did go to the house the next day with another friend to pick up the victim. When she got there, the victim was lying on the couch and Trent was sitting next to her.
She testified that the victim did not say or act as if anything was wrong, nor did she when they all left in the car with Trent and Malik.
But in her testimony, the victim denied that she was lying next to Trent on the couch when Gianna arrived at Mark's home. She also did not recall rolling around on the floor at Kamy's house.
Another defense witness, Kim Fromme, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin who studies the effects of alcohol on people, estimated that the victim had a blood alcohol level of anywhere between 0.18 to 0.25 that night, based on the varying reports of how much alcohol she consumed.
She testified that she believes the victim was in an alcohol-induced blackout during the incident, accounting for her lack of memory of what happened.
While the amount of alcohol consumption would have impaired the girl's judgment, Ms. Fromme said she believes she was capable of making voluntary decisions.
Under cross-examination, she conceded that the victim, if she blacked out, would not have been able to remember if she was assaulted or if any activity was consensual.
After the court session ended, about 50 members of Anonymous and its supporters remained behind for a candlelight vigil to show support for the alleged victim.
"At 10 a.m. we'll be back here and we'll be calm," one of the masked leaders of Anonymous told the crowd. "We're here for Jane Doe. We are here for all the Jane Does."
"We hope the verdict will send the right message to the entire world, but we will stay calm, we will stay peaceful," he said.
About half the people taking part in the vigil wore Guy Fawkes masks.
One Steubenville resident who has followed the trial, Judy Micucci Foglietti, said she thought the prosecution had done a good job.
"We'll wait and see what the judge decides," she said.
Richard Olivito, an attorney who has no connection with the case but who observed the proceedings, said he thought the attorney general's office had presented a strong case.
"My one critique," he said, "was the decision to grant immunity to the three witnesses," who were friends of the two defendants.
First Published March 17, 2013 12:00 am