A blizzard of text messages sent and received by Steubenville, Ohio rape suspect and football player and his friends paint a harrowing and horrifying portrait of the night of the alleged gang rape. Yahoo! Sports reported that for more than two hours on Tuesday, forensic specialist JoAnn Gibb read selections from the thousands of text messages that were sent and received on the night of the incident and in its aftermath.
Two suspects, 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’lik Richmond are facing rape charges and are being tried in joint trials in Steubenville. Both boys are players on the town’s champion football team, a factor which has purportedly clouded the investigation and caused prosecutors to drag their feet rather than risk opprobrium by dragging two of the town’s young heroes before the court.
Nonetheless, the texts, pulled from the phones of 17 students, paint a damning portrait of Mays and his codefendant, as well as many of the town’s young people. The messages range from profane to disturbing, enraging to pathetically sad.
The sheer volume of texted information taken in as part of the investigation was like nothing Katie Hanna of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Assault had ever seen before, one of the largest cell phone culls in state history.
“It was an extraordinary level of evidence and detail,” said Hanna. “I’ve never heard of anything like it.”
On the August, 2012 night in question, Mays and Richardson allegedly took photos and video as they manually penetrated the dazed, unconscious girl and allowed other boys to urinate on her. The victim, a 16-year-old West Virginia girl attended a neighboring high school and was either very drunk or under the influence of drugs on the night of the assaults.
At 2:20 a.m., when a friend texted to ask Mays what he was doing, he replied, “We’re hitting it for real.”
Texts followed from other boys seeking lurid details. “Did you fuck her?” they asked.
Mays sent out images of the assault, including images taken in of him in a car inserting his fingers into the unconscious girl’s vagina.
“Hey buddy,” one student texted, “you want to send me that pic because you love me?”
Some of the boys called her “the dead girl” and opined that intercourse with her would not be pleasurable in her unconscious state.
“LOL,” Mays replied, “she couldn’t even move.”
The girl, he wrote, “was like a dead body.” He claimed he didn’t try to orally sodomize her because she “would have thrown up.”
Among the texts Gibb read to the court were subsequent messages from the victim, whose memories of the whole night were lost to whatever deadening substances were in her system at the time. Friends contacted her as images from the night of the alleged assaults began to circulate on the web and between the teenagers’ smart phones.
“If that is [semen] on you that is fucking crazy,” a friend texted her.
“I hate my life,” the victim wrote. “I don’t even know what the fuck happened to me.”
“OK, tell me right now what the fuck happened last night and don’t lie to me,” she wrote to Mays. “We need to talk about this right now.”
“Nothing happen [sic] last night,” Mays replied. “You fucked last night and that’s it.”
In an email she sent Mays later, she wrote, “Why the fuck would you let that happen … seriously, you have no fucking respect … why wouldn’t you try to help me?”
The question could be applied to any of the teenagers who were aware of the crime as it happened. One boy, 16-year-old Michael Nodianos, made a video where he laughed about the rape, making jokes and saying of the victim, “She is so raped right now.”
The court also heard messages on Thursday that indicated that Mays believed that his football coach, Reno Saccoccia, was pulling strings locally to keep the incident and investigation under wraps.
Mays was concerned that the texts he was sending would incriminate him.
“(I)f they press charges, they are going to look at all my texts,” he wrote.
But then later, he said, “I got [football coach] Reno [Saccoccia] to take care of it … Like, he was joking about it, so I’m not worried.”
None of the text messages will carry the weight in the trial as actual witness testimony, which begins Friday.
Thursday’s testimony ended with 18-year-old Sean McGhee, who took the stand to testify that he had seen the victim earlier on the night in question, clearly heavily intoxicated, stumbling and slurring her words. When word reached him of what was transpiring in the late hours, he reacted with fury directed at Mays.
Borrowing a friend’s phone — his own was out of battery power — McGhee wrote, “This is Sean, you are dead wrong. I’m going to choke the hell out of you for that. You could go to jail for life for that. What the fuck. Sean McGhee.”
Mays and Richmond are being tried as juveniles. If convicted, the maximum term they can serve in prison will be until each of them is 21.
Watch video from Thursday about this story, embedded below via the AP:
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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