During her opening remarks in the highly anticipated Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial on Wednesday, special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter accused defendants Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond -- two Steubenville High star football players -- of putting the 16-year-old girl they allegedly raped through “degradation and humiliation” on Aug. 11 last year.
“This case is simple and direct,” she told state Judge Thomas Lipps, who will rule on the case without a jury. “It hinges on the defendant’s knowledge of her substantial impairment … their exploitation of her substantial impairment.”
Since the national media have descended on Steubenville over the past few months, Lipps forbade cell phones in the courtroom to prevent up-to-the-minute reporting and any Twitter activity. Lipps did permit a live video feed of the courtroom through day one, but provided witnesses with the option of testifying off camera.
Both Mays, age 17, and Richmond, age 16, have been charged as juveniles with sexually assaulting a teenage girl who is being called Jane Doe. Mays has also been charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. Both have pleaded not guilty and could be incarcerated at a juvenile facility until their 21 if convicted.
At roughly 11 a.m. Wednesday, Lipps announced that the defense had withdrawn the motion to dismiss the case and that the accuser had volunteered to take the witness stand. News 9 in Steubenville reported that two more witnesses will also address the court. The Atlantic Wire indicated that those witnesses will testify against their “best friend,” Jane Doe, who is from neighboring Weirton, W.Va.
Hemmeter blasted the defense’s strategy of trying to prove consent before they were able to introduce it. She asserted that Mays and Richmond “repeatedly violated” Jane Doe and, graphically, described their alleged actions that night.
“You heard the testimony that in the car, Trent Mays unzipped her shorts and slipped his finger into her vagina,” Hemmeter said. “They [witnesses] will tell you that Trent Mays tried to put his penis in her mouth and you’ll hear that Ma’lik Richmond was down by her feet and inserted two fingers into her vagina while she lay motionless.”
She also introduced social media evidence beyond what has previously been available to the media. Hemmeter and her fellow prosecutor showed the court multiple nude pictures of the victim sent from Mays’ cell phone and a blanket that included her DNA.
Outside the courthouse, protesters organized by the Anonymous hacker collective congregated for a silent demonstration. Unlike the January Occupy Steubenville protests, Wednesday’s protest offered a peaceful atmosphere meant to be supportive of the victim. There was no loudspeaker, no sound equipment, and no chanting, according to News 9.
The mood throughout the rest of the town was tense, with Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel reporting that one happy hour conversation quickly turned into a shouting match with the participants afraid to have their names mentioned for fear of losing their jobs.