On the fourth and penultimate day of an already long and emotional rape trial recounting a drunken and allegedly violent evening, told in tears and text messages, the Jane Doe victim finally took the stand to testify Saturday, and there was more of all of that. After two-and-a-half hours of testimony, a picture emerges of a 16-year-old girl who got drunker than she thought she should have, who forgot the night and woke up scared and surrounded, and whose family only brought charges after a barrage of questions from doctors and intimidation from suspects Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, stars on the Steubenville High football team. This is her version of the events.
The girl, after being called by the prosecution, said she had a few drinks, a "mixed drink then a red Smirnoff ice drink in a red solo cup with ice," WTRF's Laurie Conway reports, before starting to feel funny. The alcohol was making her act differently than she normally would while drunk. She said she was interested in Mays, and followed him to another party because she trusted him. Then, while on the stand, the victim was shown a picture, for the first time, of her passed out at one of the many parties on the night of August 11. She instantly started crying, as did her mother and at least two other women in the courtroom. She was asked how she felt about seeing the nude photo of herself: "Not good," she said. She said the last thing she remembers from that night was leaving the last party, with her friends behind her. "A lot of people were leaving at that time," she said.
Cut to the next morning. The next thing she remembers, Jane Doe said, is waking up "embarrassed, scared, not sure what to think," under a blanket in an unfamiliar place surrounded by three boys. She said it was "really scary." She got up to get dressed, but no one could find her phone or her underwear. Two of her friends picked her up, and after a short trip to drop off the two defendants, they started yelling at her over what they were hearing about the night before. She didn't remember anything they were yelling at her for. Doe repeatedly said she felt "freaked out and embarrassed" for blacking out on the events of the evening.
After getting dropped off at her mom's house, she immediately admitted to her mother that she didn't remember anything and that she couldn't find her shoes or phone. Getting in trouble was "the last thing on my mind," she said. Eventually, she started to hear about what was circling on social media. At this point in the testimony, Doe started crying again after being shown a photo in the courtroom, one she had already seen. She said the carpet in the photo matched the basement room she woke up in.
The girl said she thought she knew everything she drank that night, and had never blacked out before. Only after insistence from a number of immediate and extended family members did she go to the hospital to get checked out. There, two days after the party, doctors told her a rape kit wouldn't show anything because of the amount of time between the assault and the hospital visit. She was reluctant to tell the doctor the names of the boys involved; she didn't want to get involved in any of the drama that would ensue. (She did absolve Charlie Keenan, the son of the former prosecutor who was named in the original report, from doing anything that night.) But that didn't stop of the defendants from texting her repeatedly over the few days after party, frantically the morning after, and "freaking out," she says, asking whether or not she was going to tell the police.
Eventually her parents reported the alleged assault to the police. She sent a text message to one of the defendants, apparently Mays, insisting that she didn't want to go to the cops: "We know you didn't rape me," it said. The girl went on to say that she had not been aware at the time that digital penetration was also considered rape.
The prosecution showed a series of text messages to the courtroom sent between Jane Doe and Mays and Richmond in the following days. She alleged that one of the defendants, apparently Mays, said that the the football team's coach, who will take the stand at the trial as well, called his house and told them they raped her, and the defendant asked her to "tell her dad the truth." She said social media was telling a different story. "This is the most pointless thing. I am gonna get in trouble for nothing," he allegedly texted her. "You know what happened, there's no video, so nothing happened," another text from Mays read. The defendants told her she had been a hassle, and that they "took care of her." But when she saw the video of Steubenville High athlete Michael Nodianos making fun of her, she thought differently: "I knew everyone telling me that they were taking care of me, that that was not true," she said. One of the defendants, apparently Mays, also admitted, in a text message, to taking a picture of his bodily fluids on her after they were done doing whatever they allegedly did:
Text from Def 1 to Jane Doe "That was my (semen) on you, not (urine)."— Eric Minor (@EricWTOV9) March 16, 2013
The girl told the court she believed she was drugged, a charge that has been challenged by the very friends — now former friends — who testified against her for the defense. Earlier on Saturday, an expert for the defense said the victim's blood alcohol content would have been an estimated .18 or .25 and that the girl should have been able to voluntarily make her own decisions, even if she didn't remember them. Her testimony focused primarily on whether the girl was "black out drunk," or "passed out drunk," with the expert ruling for the former. But then this happened:
On cross-examination, prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter showed Fromme a picture of the teen girl apparently passed out and being carried by the defendants. Fromme said she had not seen the picture. Fromme also had not seen pictures of the girl laying naked on a couch and on the floor of a basement.
That photo — an Instagram image that has come to stand for the complex social-media trial that proceeded the actual one — has been seen my millions of people. And still the defense is relying on a strategy concerning levels of drunkenness to prove consent. But now Jane Doe has told her story for the prosecution, as she does and does not remember it. Judge Thomas Lipps is expected, after another long day of emotional testimony from the football coach and more, to announce a verdict on Sunday.
Update: The defense has rested and closing arguments are underway. You can watch video here, and stay tuned to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and WTRF's Conway for updates. Judge Lipps may make his ruling tonight.
Update No. 2: After emotional closing arguments from both sides, Judge Lipps said he would review the evidence and the new text messages revealed during the victim's testimony, and announce his decision on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Central time. Richmond's attorney, Walter Madison, said that "the whole world was watching" but that the state had not presented enough evidence to prove rape — he repeated that not of Richmond's DNA had been found on the victim's blanket, shorts, or the couch where two of the sex acts allegedly occurs, and that the "substance" found on the victim could not be confirmed. Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said the evidence was "overwhelming" and, regarding the victim, that "the things that made her an imperfect witnes... made her a perfect victim. Hemmeter continued: "This case isn't about a YouTube video. This case isn't about social media. This case isn't about Big Red football. This case is about a 16-year-old girl who was taken advantage of, toyed with, and humiliated, and it's time to the people who did that to her are held responsible."
The divergent arguments were in stark contrast: The defense insisted that "we'll never know what happened that night" while the prosecution said "we'll never know how much" she drank and that "we'll never know" whether she was drugged. The assault that allegedly happened in between the drinking and the next morning, well, that's up to the judge. (Juvenile court in Ohio does not have a jury.) Stay tuned for updates in the morning.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece confused identifiers when referring to the before the "took care of her" line. It was the defendants who told the victim she was a hassle, and not the other way around. We regret the error and it's been corrected above.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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