Ohio Attorney General Says Steubenville Rape Investigation Isn’t Over
12:50 pm, March 19th | by Colette McIntyre
On Monday, Juvenile court judge Thomas Lipps found Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, guilty in the rape of a 16-year-old West Virginia girl after a party last August. Judge Lipps, who was hearing the case without a jury, also found Mays delinquent in disseminating a nude photo of a minor. The two boys will be jailed a minimum of one year for the rape (Mays faces another year for the additional charge) and could be kept in juvenile jail until they turn 21.
While the Steubenville rape trial has reached its conclusion, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says his investigation into the summertime attack isn’t over. In a news conference held just an hour after the guilty verdict was handed down, DeWine announced that the scope of the prosecution will be broadened. “I think the Steubenville community needs really two things,” DeWine said. “One is to get this over with, but the other is to believe that justice has been done, that we have left no stone unturned and that anyone who is criminally liable has been brought to justice.”
DeWine is asking a state court to convene a grand jury to determine whether “other crimes have been committed,” whether there was broader complicity in the sexual assault. Since photos of the rape victim and news of the attack were disseminated over multiple social media platforms and among party-goers, the grand jury will certainly have enough evidence and witnesses to sift through. According to DeWine, investigators analyzed 396,270 text messages; 308,586 photos/pictures; 940 video clips; and 3,188 phone calls in connection to the crime. Over fifty people were interviewed, including the owners of the home where the party was held, the Steubenville High School principal, superintendent, and twenty-seven football coaches. Sixteen individuals who attended the party refused to cooperated, citing various reasons.
DeWine has already begun his long-term prosecution of fringe participants: on Monday, sheriff’s deputies and state investigators arrested two teenaged girls for threatening the rape victim over Twitter. One of the girls, a 16-year-old, was charged with one misdemeanor count of aggravated menacing after tweeting that if she saw the victim, “it’s gone be a homicide.” The other teen, 15, was also charged with a count of menacing after threatening a beating over Facebook. The teens, both from Steubenville, will appear before a juvenile court later today.
It is heartening to hear that the Attorney General will continue to investigate this case even after receiving his convictions. It’s not often that prosecutors pursue justice so aggressively in a rape case; many make a show of the trial, mime the requisite haranguing, celebrate the guilty verdict, and leave the ambiguities behind. Everyone talks about the importance of “moving on”; the media reports that the town is “trying to heal.” (No mention of the victim or how a full investigation would help her healing process, of course.)
“Among some people, there seems to be an unbelievable casualness about rape and about sex,” DeWine said:
It is a cavalier attitude — a belief that somehow there isn’t anything wrong with any of this. Rape is not a recreational activity. We, as a society, have an obligation do more to educate our young people about rape. They need to know it is a horrible crime of violence. And it is simply not ok.
While DeWine’s announcement that rape is “not ok” may sound trite, it’s a simple message that many media outlets and distressingly cruel social media users are failing to communicate. CNN’s report of the verdict came with a disturbing amount of sympathy for the convicted rapists. Correspondent Poppy Harlow solemnly described the courtroom scene, lamenting that “it was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult” to watch “these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students” have their lives “fall apart.” Ah yes, how devastating to watch rapists go down for their crime. I know that in this country we’re not used to seeing rapists actually convicted but have we really reached the point that the attackers elicit our compassion? Have we forgotten all about the 16-year-old girl who was dragged from party to party, raped, denigrated, humiliated, laughed at, and forced to relieve these horrific moments again and again through tweets, Facebook posts, and news reports?
Whether or not the Attorney General is pandering to the outraged crowds and looking for “campaign opportunities” frankly doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that someone is going to hold a web of bystanders accountable for this horrific incident. What matters is that someone is recognizing that the victim is the only victim worth feeling compassion for. What matters is that a law enforcement agent is publicly saying things like this:
This is not just a Steubenville problem. This is a societal problem….What’s even more shocking and appalling is that crimes of sexual assault are occurring every Friday night and every Saturday night in big and small communities all across this country. And there comes a point, where we must say, “Enough! This has to stop!”
[Photo via AP]