Trial begins in widely watched Steubenville rape case
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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio -- Graphic testimony marked the first day of trial today for two high school football players accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated 16-year-old West Virginia girl after an end-of-summer party last year.
A friend of the defendants admitted today that he offered to pay other pals $3 if they would urinate on the girl as she sat in the street, shirtless.
"That was me," said Patrick Pizzoferrato, 17. "But it was a joke."
No one took him up on his offer, he said.
He also said he saw a cell phone photo of the girl on her hands and knees with one of the accused, Trent Mays, 16, behind her as if he had just had sex with her.
But, he said, he saw no actual sex act.
His testimony came in the trial for Trent and a co-defendant, Malik Richmond, 17, both Steubenville High School football players. They are charged with sexually assaulting the 16-year-old Catholic school girl during a night of heavy drinking and partying Aug. 11.
Prosecutors say Trent penetrated her with his fingers in the back of a car while she was too drunk to know what was happening. Malik is accused of doing the same thing in the basement of a friend's house later that night and into the next morning.
The case has generated so much national and international interest that Jefferson County Justice Center officials have set up separate rooms for reporters to watch on closed-circuit TV.
One of the keys to the case is whether the girl was too drunk to give consent to sex acts.
One witness, Julia Lefever, 17, said the girl had been drinking vodka mixed with a Slushee and got intoxicated quickly, stumbling and slurring her speech. She said she had tried to intervene to keep the 16-year-old from leaving the party to go with the players to another home where police say the assaults took place, but was unsuccessful.
"I told her to stay but she said she'd be fine," she said.
When she picked the girl up the next morning at the home, she said, the girl was a mess but could not recall what had happened to her.
"She started crying and said, 'I don't remember anything.'"
Although the girl will testify in open court and her name has been released online, the Post-Gazette does not name alleged victims in sex-assault cases without their consent.
In her opening statement, Assistant Ohio Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter said that after the girl left with the players and some of their friends, the defendants degraded her repeatedly by taking photos of her naked and sending the images to friends in texts.
They treated her, she said, like their "toy."
Lawyers for the two teens insisted their clients did not rape the girl.
The nonjury trial is expected to last at least until Friday and could extend into the weekend.
First Published March 13, 2013 6:29 pm