CHICAGO, Mar 18 – Two US teenagers were found guilty on Sunday of raping a fellow high school student – a case made notorious when a video of boys laughing about the assault on the “dead” drunk girl went viral.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, both high school football players in the small Ohio town of Steubenville, broke down when they heard the verdict: “delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt” on all counts.
Further charges may be brought against other people involved in the incident, which continued well after the August 11 assault as pictures and videos were shared via text message and uploaded to social media sites like Facebook.
“Many of the things that we learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly,” said Judge Thomas Lipps.
In one video, high school boys laughed about watching the rape, saying the girl “deserved to be peed on.”
Other videos and photos showed Mays and Richmond lifting the unconscious and nearly naked 16-year-old girl by her hands and feet.
Because they were tried as juveniles, the judge determined the verdict and the sentence, which the boys began serving immediately.
Richmond must serve a minimum of one year in a juvenile rehabilitation facility and a maximum of up until he turns 21, while Mays, charged with a second crime of “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material,” was sentenced to a minimum of two years and a maximum of up until he turns 24.
They both apologized in court to the victim, her family and the community. Richmond said they had “no intentions” to commit the crimes, and Mays said “those pictures shouldn’t have been sent around, let alone even taken.”
Richmond’s father also apologized and asked for forgiveness for the boys for what he called “a terrible mistake.”
The 16-year-old victim was not in the room, but her mother addressed the court, telling the boys: “You displayed not only a lack of… compassion but a lack of any moral code.”
“You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on,” she said. “I have pity for you both.”
The girl’s lawyer, Bob Fitzsimmons, told CNN she was “doing well” and was relieved that the court case had finished.
“She’s a 16-year-old girl still, and she’s a high school student. She just wants to get back with her normal life, as does the family,” he said.
Ohio Assistant Attorney General Marianne Hemmeter said in opening statements Wednesday that the two boys treated the girl like a “toy” and repeatedly degraded her by sending the photos to their friends.
Defense attorneys had disputed the prosecution’s assertion that the girl was too drunk to consent, and insisted the boys’ actions did not constitute rape.
The case has raised awareness of the power and danger of social media and cyber bullying, as sexually explicit or other humiliating pictures and videos spread like wildfire with a click of a mouse or a tap on a smartphone.
One in six US children aged 12 to 17 have received a sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photo or video of someone they know, a recent study by the Pew Research Center found.
And the Crimes Against Children Research Center estimated that police investigated nearly 3,500 cases of youth-produced sexual images in 2008 and 2009.