A day after text messages were introduced in the Steubenville rape trial, three teenage witnesses (each of them current and former Steubenville students) are expected to provide key testimony in the trial of two high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in August.
Thursday's installment of the Steubenville trial (which Special Judge Thomas Lipps is hearing without a jury) centered on the spiderweb of conflicting text messages sent last August after the alleged rape. According to a recap in the New York Times, texts from Trent Mays, the 17-year-old Steubenville quarterback who stands accused with fellow football player Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, of digitally penetrating a 16-year-old girl in back of a moving car and again in the basement of a house, included Mays' admission that he digitally penetrated the girl. (Mays has also been charged with the illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.) The two have maintained their innocence.
In other texts, however, Mays tells his friends that he and the girl engaged in another (mutual) sex act. The flurry of messages that Mays sent from his phone in the wake of the alleged rape seem to hedge around a full admission. Prosecutors introduced one text, for example, in which Mays tells the girl's father (probably one of the worst nightmare confrontations for any parent is interacting in any way with your child's alleged rapist) "this is all a big misunderstanding." Another series of texts Mays sent to his friends reveal that he'd been concerned about Steubenville football coach Reno Saccoccia's response to the event until the coach, according to Mays' texts, apparently gave him some reassuring news.
Saccoccia, reads one of Mays' text that prosecutors introduced Thursday, "took care of it." In another text, Mays adds, "Like, he was joking about it so I'm not worried."
Yet another text from Mays to the host of the August party seems particularly damning, since Mays appears to be giving the host scripted instructions about how to account for the girl's presence at the party: "Just say she came to to your house and passed out."
The Times makes it clear that Saccoccia has not commented about the allegations, and Steubenville officials have not made him available.
Additional Thursday testimony came from former Steubenville high school student Sean McGhee, who said he considered the girl his friend and was quite upset to learn about the events at the party. After reading Mays' texted account of that night, McGhee, currently a student at Campbellsville University, responded tersely, "I saw the the pix, bro. Don't lie."
Over the course of the investigation, authorities collected 17 cellphones, from which state forensics investigator Joanna Gibbs quoted a dizzying number of text messages about the events of the August party.
Today's testimony of the three teenage boys is, according to the AP, a crucial part of the state's evidence, since the girl has said she has no memory of the events at the party. Prosecutors insist that the girl was too drunk to consent to any sexual act, while the defense is trying to portray her as being "intoxicated but still in control of her actions." Text messages the girl sent to one of the defendants reveal, however, that she didn't find out the assault until the day after the party: "And don't lie about anything. I need to know the truth. People keep asking. Idk (I don't know) what to say." In another text to a friend, the girl writes, "Swear to God I don't remember doing anything with them. I wasn't being a slut. They were taking advantage of me."
One of today's witnesses, according to the Plain Dealer, previously testified that he took a nude picture of the girl but later deleted it, while another of the witnesses admitted to taking video of the girl passed out in the back of a car, but also deleted it. The third witness was present when the infamous YouTube video — in which people mock the girl — was filmed.
If you're not particularly busy today, you can watch a live stream(with occasional blackouts for underage testimony) of the proceedings at Jefferson County Juvenile Court.