Steubenville Trial: Two Boys Found Guilty of Rape
Jane Doe got justice.
That’s the first thing I thought after watching Judge Thomas Lipps give his highly anticipated verdict in the Stuebenveille rape trial. The boys were guilty. He had gotten up early on this dreadful Sunday morning, and after rereading the thousands of text messages again, and reviewing four days of disturbing testimony, including that of three teen boys who were given immunity after they took the 5th, after considering Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond’s character, after concluding that “many of the things we learned during this trial that our children were hearing and saying were profane and ugly,” he had reached a decision.
No one moved. You couldn’t hear a sound in that packed courtroom.
And then Trent Mays began to cry, burying his face in a handkerchief. Guilty on all three charges. Mays, “whose actions were more egregious” than Richmond’s, was also found delinquent of illegally using a minor in nudity-oriented material. He was sentenced to a minimum of two years in a juvenile facility and a "consecutive" sentence that could last until he turns 24. Richmond got a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years until he turns 21. They will both need to register as sex offenders.
In one sense the boys are lucky. They could have been tried as adults. The court chose not to because they had never been in legal trouble.
I could not see Ma’lik Richmond’s face, the star running back of Steubenville’s football team. But here is what he told his defense lawyer, Walter Madison, as the verdict was read. “My life is over.” Moments later, when Judge Lipps asked the 16-year-old if he wanted to say anything, he walked over to the victim and spoke to her. We could not see her face, of course, only his. He told her how sorry he was, how he hadn’t meant to “put her through this,” and then he burst into tears and collapsed into someone’s arms. It was the first sign of humanity I’d seen from any of these teens since I’d followed the trial.
It looked to me, from watching the live video feed, that Trent Mays, the star quarterback on Steubenville High's football team, was less contrite. When asked if he wanted to address the victim, he did not get up. He said, “I would like to apologize to my family and the community. No pictures should have been sent around. That’s all, sir.”
That’s all, sir.
This is the same boy who repeatedly begged the victim in the days following the rape to not go to the police because it would “ruin” his football career. Never mind that he had ruined her life, treated her “like a toy” to be passed around and “degraded” and “humiliated,” as prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said in her opening statement.
It was his football career that was on the line.
Not surprisingly, I found myself reacting throughout this case not simply as a journalist, but as a mother of a 22-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter. I thought of their teenage years, and the bad decisions each one had made, and the failure I felt when they broke the rules, did things that absolutely infuriated me and broke my heart. Parenting a teen is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever done. Yet I see many parents just give up at that age, right when their children need their supervision most, because their teens are older, and they assume they don't need guidance and structure and discipline the way they did when they were toddlers. Or they give up because it’s just too damn exhausting and hard.
And I couldn’t help but think as I followed Steubenville that adults had failed every single one of those teens, and the victim, and her “best” friends, who dumped her after she was raped. What kind of coach makes 16- and 17-year old boys think that football is more important than a girl’s humanity? What kind of boys film a girl being raped and then brag about it in text messages and on Facebook? What "best friend" lets her drunken, barely conscious best friend be dragged around by her hands and feet by two drunken boys, who obviously don’t respect her? When she woke up the morning after she’d been raped, she was naked, alone in a basement with Mays and Richmond and another boy, and didn’t remember what happened. She couldn’t find her cell phone or her underwear. During her testimony on Saturday, she recalled being "scared." After her friends picked her and the boys up, and then dropped the boys off, they yelled at her.