The rape trial ended on Sunday in Steubenville, Ohio, determining exactly what it set out to discover — whether high-school football players Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond raped an intoxicated 16-year-old girl at parties last August. They were found guilty on all counts. And while the bigger implications for the case — cover-ups, gross-out videos, and a too-powerful football program — have already been tried in social media, a bigger legal fight may charge the people behind them, from the coach who "took care of it" to more players and maybe even parents.
All of those implications will play out next month before a grand jury, which Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced after the trial and could shake up Steubenville once more before the case ever goes away. "We've gathered a lot of evidence, but we cannot put this to bed," DeWine said. "My prosecutors will present evidence to this Grand Jury for it to determine if other crimes have been committed," reads the statement. The town seems to be onboard with the continued investigation, but the town may end up exposed for having let the crime go unreported for up to a week, and the new charges may run all the way up Steubenville's complex chain of power. Here's a search for clues on what's next.
Looking for Charges in an Interconnected Town
Of the 60 individuals identified by the attorney general's office as persons of interest, DeWine said 16 people who may have had information refused to talk with investigators. Many of those people are underage. DeWine said, without being asked, that "indictments could be returned and additional charges could be filed." And here's the tricky part: Under Ohio law, if you fail to report a crime, you may be breaking the law.
Ohio Law decrees that 'no person, knowing that a felony has been or is being committed, shall knowingly fail to report such information to law enforcement authorities... Whoever violates division (A) or (B) of this section is guilty of failure to report a crime.
While the juvenile court lessens rape charges to a Category 2 crime, rape is a felony. (This may be news to CNN, where an actual chiron headline today read: "Realizing rape is a crime.") DeWine said at his press conference that, beyond the failure-to-report charge, possible additional charges could investigated include failure to report child abuse, tampering with evidence, and "others."
So who are investigators looking at for this grand jury hearing? Well, Steubenville is a town of 18,000 people, but a lot of those people are connected by way of the football team, the legal system, and especially local law enforcement. The power players in this town know each other. To get a sense of the inner workings, we've expanded on a comprehensive chart from investigative journalist Joey Ortega, with new connections based on news reports and testimony in last week's trial. This map is not proof of any funny business or wrongdoing — not at all — but it does help re-introduce the bigger picture, and you can click the image below to expand:
What Did Coach Reno Take Care of, Exactly?
The connections raising the most eyebrows on the day after the verdict point to one man who's going to have a lot of explaining to do: Steubenville football head coach Reno Saccoccia. The coach did not testify in the rape trial, but he told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer on Friday that he was "expecting" to take the stand, perhaps signaling that he's agreed to cooperate with investigators. He certainly couldn't cooperate any less with reporters. Saccoccia has claimed in other brief interviews that he doesn't "do the Internet" and had not seen the many pictures and videos which circulated online in town before they went national; he physically confronted a New York Times reporter in an expletive-laden tirade that served as his response to why he had not disciplined Mays, Richmond, or any other players following the night of August 11.
But according to testimony from last week's trial, Mays had sent a text message to one his friends, in which he confirmed that he had told Saccoccia about the incident. Mays, the 17-year-old Big Red quarterback, sent this text:
"I got Reno. He took care of it and sh-- ain't gonna happen, even if they did take it to court."
High-school coaches and school officials are expected under Ohio law to report child abuse. If what Mays claimed in his text message is true, that would implicate Saccocia. "The coach and the school district have repeatedly declined to comment," according to USA Today, which adds that parents may also face more charges.
Coach Saccoccia was the subject of criticism all the way back in the summer for failing to discipline his players who were witnesses to the attack, even as some of them testified under oath in pre-trial hearings in the fall that they had seen a possible crime. "Two players who testified at a hearing in October were not suspended until eight games into a 10-game regular season," reports the Plain-Dealer, which notes that Saccoccia has maintained that he did not discuss the incident with his players. That runs contrary to the testimony of Evan Westlake, a football player and eyewitness of one of the attacks, who said during last week's trial that he discussed the incident with Saccoccia.
What Did We Learn from the Players Who Can't Be Charged?
Mark Cole, Anthony Craig, and Evan Westlake were all granted immunity after a late-night meeting on Thursday with Judge Thomas Lipps. They went on to testify against their frieds on the football team in eye-witness testimony that strengthened the prosecution's case. All three had provided testimony at the pre-trial hearing in October under the assumption of an immunity deal, which DeWine publicly revoked before the trial... only to have Lipps officially grant a get-out-of-jail free cards on Friday. When asked after the trial if the three witnesses could still face charges, DeWine indicated that the immunity deals were likely to hold up, unless the grand jury revealed some extraordinary new circumstances.
Cole testified that he videotaped one of the attacks on his cellphone while driving the victim — along with Mays and Richmond — to his house. And Craig and Westlake both testified to witnessing Mays assault the girl when they got to Cole's house. Westlake said he saw Richmond penetrate Jane Doe with his fingers while she was unconscious, and Westlake has admitted that he filmed the 12-minute "dead girl" video, since gone viral many times over, in which Steubenville baseball player Michael Nodianos viciously jokes about the attack.
Can the Gross Viral Video Become a Crime?
About that video: The grand jury's probe might have its most obvious case in failure to report from the student who reported all about it on YouTube. Nodianos, who has since lawyered up since dropping out of Ohio State last semester, was the young man laughing and joking his way through the clip above, including saying that the Jane Doe victim was "so raped right now." He has not been charged with any crime, his lawyer maintains that he was not present at the scene of the alleged attack, and the video is too heavy on the commentary to provoke a similar charge to Mays, who in addition to rape was convicted of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material — presumably from a photo on his cellphone with the victim naked and covered in his semen. But Nodianos clearly understood the details of Doe's intoxication at the parties — as did a lot of the students to attend them — and he clearly had some understanding of the nature of the attack on her.
"They peed on her," Nodianos says in the video. "That's how you know she's dead, because someone pissed on her." That's an exaggeration — no one urinated on the victim, but Nodianos appears to be referring to her state toward the end of the night, which matches up with testimony from another student. Yahoo's Dan Wentzel has a recap:
One kid, Patrick Pizzoferrato, pulled out $3 and said he'd give it to anyone who urinated on her.
"I made it as a joke," Pizzoferrato testified. "… I don't think anyone thought I was serious when I said that."
"He was not raised in that manner," Nodianos's lawyer said at a press conference in January. "I don't believe it was a crime to make the video, but it was stupid." What Nodianos knew, however, could be called into question if the attorney general's office is looking for public finality. Alexandra Goddard, the blogger who first started making connections in the case that took the case outside of Steubenville, is speaking out again, and she notes that Nodianos's Twitter account was what "horrified" her first.
Where Were the Parents? And What's in All Those Cellphones?
There was plenty of drinking on the August 11, and three different parties after an early-season Big Red game, one of which we know happened at Cole's house. But where did all the parents go after the final whistle, and then immediately following what's now been officially called a rape? The students at the parties were all around 16 or 17, and many are wondering who supplied them with alcohol, which clearly played a part in the crime, as well as why no parents went to the authorities before the girl's did three mornings later.
In his press conference on Sunday, before announcing that he had called the grand jury, DeWine made a point to explain the work not just of his investigators who questioned so many people, but also the thoroughness of his cyber-crimes division in inspecting 13 phones, two iPads, and the contents therein: "From those phones, investigators reviewed and analyzed 396,270 text messages; 308,586 photos/pictures; 940 video clips; 3,188 phone calls; and 16,422 contacts listed in phones," DeWine said in his statement. There were local police investigators doing initial work, followed by the investigations of the Jefferson Country sheriff's office — run by controversial sheriff and alleged buddy of the coach Fred Abdalla — and then reinforcements from the AG's office and even the FBI, after what prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said was added pressure put on the case by the hacking group Anonymous.
During last week's trial, we started to learn what was in some — but perhaps not all — of those text messages, and that there were more gruesome photos. Mays had texted his friends on August 13, the day before the crime was officially reported, telling them about the attack and trying to organize an alibi:
"Dude, I'm so [expletive] scared," the defendant says in a text to a friend. "Her dad knows where we brought her. If we're questioned just say she was really drunk and we were trying to keep her safe."
Mays and Richmond were arrested on August 22, more than a week after the girl's parents reported the crime to the Steubenville police department. In another exchange, as The New York Times's Richard Oppel reports, Mays told another of this friends about the incident, perhaps admitting that he tried and failed to have oral sex with the girl:
Mr. Mays also texted that the girl “was like a dead body” and that he did not try to have oral sex with her because “she would have thrown up,” while denying that he drugged the girl and texting that he tried to take her beer away.
At one point, a friend texted to Mr. Mays, “You are a felon.”
It's those type of texts which could be incriminating to their recipients, because an argument could be made that whoever was on the receiving end — perhaps teammates — had some kind of knowledge of the incident and failed to report it.
The grand jury will convene around April 15.
Image by Luis Nunez/A.Abad-Santos; Original mind map by Joey Ortega
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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