Two high school football players were found guilty Sunday of raping a 16-year-old girl last summer and will spend at least one year behind bars. The case shook up the small Ohio town of Steubenville, and garnered lots of attention across the country through social media amid accusations that authorities were doing their best to cover-up the crime in a football-crazy town. Steubenville High School students Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile jail although they may be held until they’re 21. Mays was sentenced to an additional year in jail for taking and sending a picture of the girl to other people and he’ll have to serve that after his rape sentence is completed, reports the Associated Press.
The judge found that both Mays and Richmond penetrated the girl with their fingers while she was drunk and could not give consent, first in the back of a car and then the basement of a house, in the early morning hours of Aug. 12. Ohio law includes digital penetration in its definition of rape, notes the New York Times.
The case is far from over. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Sunday he would seek a grand jury investigation into the events surrounding the rape, reports Reuters. Sixteen people had refused to cooperate with the case and the grand jury will have to determine whether anyone else should be charged.
The verdict came after four days of testimony. Investigators analyzed hundreds of text messages that gave prosecutors what they described as a breakdown of exactly what happened that night. The girl testified she didn’t remember much but said she came to believe she was assaulted after reading text messages and seeing a photo of herself the night of the attack.
The Steubenville case began to get national attention after the hacking group Anonymous publicized a photograph of two men carrying the girl as well as incriminating video. The group proceeded to plan protests in the town, accusing officials of trying to minimize the incident because of the popularity of its “Big Red” football team.
As the New York Times explained in a lengthy December piece, what made this accusation of sexual assault so different from others in the past is that it took place “in the age of social media, when teenagers are capturing much of their lives on their camera phones—even repugnant, possibly criminal behavior, as they did in Steubenville in August—and then posting it on the Web, like a graphic, public diary.”
When he sentenced the boys, Judge Thomas Lipps urged all those who had followed the case "to have discussions about how you talk to your friends, how you record things on the social media so prevalent today and how you conduct yourself when drinking is put upon you by your friends."