STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — The trial of two Ohio high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl began as a contest between prosecutors insisting the girl was too drunk to consent to sex and defense attorneys portraying her as someone who was intoxicated but still in control of her actions.
Testimony was scheduled to continue today before Judge Thomas Lipps, who is hearing the case without a jury.
Three teenage boys who are key to the prosecution’s case are still to take the stand this week. Defense attorneys could call the girl to testify since a West Virginia judge ruled Tuesday night that she and two of her friends could be subpoenaed.
The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of a pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond maintain their innocence.
In his opening statement, Mays’ attorney, Brian Duncan said his 17-year-old client “did not rape the young lady in question.” Richmond’s attorney gave no opening statement.
The girl was “substantially impaired” after an alcohol-fueled party, a prosecutor said Wednesday in her opening statement at the boys’ trial. She said the girl was unable to consent to sex and suffered humiliation and degradation when she was raped by the football players.
“She wasn’t participating, she wasn’t moving, she wasn’t talking,” said special prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter, referring to the second of two alleged attacks in the basement of a house.
Richmond and Mays are charged with digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, first in the back seat of a moving car after a party Aug. 11 and then in the basement of a house. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
Witnesses said the girl was so drunk she threw up at least twice and had trouble walking and speaking. She also was photographed being carried by the two boys.
In an excerpt of a videotaped interview with ABC’s “20/20,” Richmond said the photo was a joke. He contends the girl was awake and was a willing participant, the show said.
The girl’s level of inebriation quickly emerged as a key issue Wednesday.
Prosecutors presented two witnesses, 17-year-old girls who saw the girl the night of the party.
Elayna Andres, a Steubenville High School student, said the girl was having trouble walking but never appeared to pass out.
“She went over by the door and she stumbled, and that’s when the boys picked her up,” she said. “She was conscious but she couldn’t lift her head.”
The other teen, Julia Lefever, said she had never seen her friend so intoxicated. She said she and the alleged victim were drinking a blue slush ice drink they laced with vodka they brought to the party and her friend later drank a beer.
Jacob Howarth, 19, a former Steubenville high school student, testified about the alleged victim’s demeanor at a small gathering at his house that night. Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, pushed Howarth in a graphic line of questioning to confirm that when the girl vomited in his bathroom, she was able to use the toilet and not leave a mess.
“Being drunk doesn’t mean you don’t know what’s going on, right?” Madison said.
On cross-examination, prosecutor Brian Deckert got Howarth to agree that the girl was “stumbling, with a blank expression, and swaying back and forth.”
Under questioning from defense attorneys, witnesses also gave examples of the alleged victim turning down friends’ offers of help and agreeing to go with the defendants.
Pat Pizzoferrato, 17, a Steubenville high school student, testified that he was shown a picture of the victim on her knees with her pants off with the defendants nearby. “I thought they just had sex with her,” he said when asked by Hemmeter what he thought the picture showed.
That picture was never found and isn’t part of the evidence before Lipps.
If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail until they turn 21.