The trial is over in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, in which a teenage girl who was exploited and sexually assaulted by members of a high school football team, who dragged her unconscious body to multiple parties where multiple people saw her being assaulted, took pictures of her, and failed to intervene in any way.
Two young men have been found guilty.
Two high school football stars were found guilty on Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl last summer in a case that drew national attention for the way social media spurred the initial prosecution and later helped galvanize national outrage.If the "football stars" had any words of regret for the young woman they raped, those words have not found their way into the media.
One of the football players, Trent Mays, 17, who had been a quarterback, was sentenced to serve at least two years in the state juvenile system. The other, Ma'lik Richmond, 16, who had played wide receiver, was sentenced to serve at least one year. Both could end up in juvenile jail until they are 21, at the discretion of the State Department of Youth Services.
Mr. Mays's minimum sentence is twice as long as Mr. Richmond's because he was found to be delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt — the juvenile equivalent of guilty — not just of rape but also of distributing a nude image of a minor.
After Judge Thomas Lipps read his decision in Juvenile Court, both boys sobbed. Mr. Richmond told his lawyer, Walter Madison, "My life is over."
Mr. Mays apologized to the victim by name, as well as to her family and the community. "No pictures should have been sent around, let alone ever taken," he said.
Mr. Richmond then walked toward the family and said: "I had not intended to do anything like this. I'm sorry to put you through this." After that he broke down, unable to speak, and embraced a court officer.
Judge Lipps described much of the evidence as "profane and ugly." In sentencing the boys, he said rape was among the gravest of crimes and noted that they could have been tried as adults with far harsher punishments. He also said the case was a cautionary lesson in how teenagers conduct themselves when alcohol is present and in "how you record things on social media that are so prevalent today."I'm guessing Judge Lipps' intent was not to warn two convicted rapists (and other potential rapists) to make sure they don't record it if they're going to rape someone, but it nonetheless seems like that's somehow the bigger takeaway from this case. Not: Don't rape. But: Don't be so stupid as to record it if you do.
Meanwhile, over at CNN, Candy Crowley, Poppy Harlow, and Paul Callan reported the breaking news of the verdict last night by expressing their condolences for the rapists.
CNN's Candy Crowley began her breaking news report by showing Lipps handing down the sentence and telling CNN reporter Poppy Harlow that she "cannot imagine" how emotional the sentencing must have been.Rage. Seethe. Boil.
Harlow explained that it had been "incredibly difficult" to watch "as these two young men — who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students — literally watched as they believed their life fell apart."
"One of the young men, Ma'lik Richmond, as that sentence came down, he collapsed," the CNN reporter recalled, adding that the convicted rapist told his attorney that "my life is over, no one is going to want me now."
At that point, CNN played video of Richmond crying and hugging his lawyer in the courtroom.
"I was sitting about three feet from Ma'lik when he gave that statement," Harlow said. "It was very difficult to watch."
Candy then asked CNN legal contributor Paul Callan what the verdict meant for "a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds."
"What's the lasting effect though on two young men being found guilty juvenile court of rape essentially?" Crowley wondered.
"There's always that moment of just — lives are destroyed," Callan remarked. "But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law."
"That will haunt them for the rest of their lives."
One of the reasons I have not written more about this case, though I have been following it, is because its familiarity makes it a difficult story for me. I was raped in high school by a popular student athlete and great student, and I was asked over and over, as I was passed from police to the school social worker to the school counselors, down the ladder of power, do I really want to ruin his life over this? There wasn't a whole lot of concern about the trajectory of my life, or how it might have changed.
I'm not going to spend any more of my energy on anger. I've got nothing for contempt for anyone who would center concern for rapists over a victim.
Instead, I want to say to the survivor of these multiple acts of rape, in case she ever wanders by this space, and to any other survivors who might need to hear these words: I care about you. I wish for you the support and love that you need, and the access to healthcare services that might be of use following trauma. I hope you will find peace, and, if you can't, I want you to know that there is at least one person in the world who thinks that's okay. You aren't obliged to be peaceful for me, or anyone else. I will think of you. I will survive alongside you. Restless and relentless.
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[Note: I shouldn't have to say this in this space, but I'm going to anyway: Comments that allude, obliquely or overtly, to the convicted young men being sexually assaulted in prison—"I hope they enjoy their time in prison"; "I hope they get a taste of their own medicine"; etc.—are categorically not allowed in this space. The solution to rape culture is not more rape.]