Teen eyewitnesses testify at Ohio rape trial

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 15, 2013 at 10:35 pm •  Published: March 15, 2013
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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (AP) — A judge granted three teenagers immunity from prosecution Friday before they agreed to testify about the alleged sexual assault of a drunken 16-year-old girl after a party in eastern Ohio last summer.

Mark Cole, Evan Westlake and Anthony Craig invoked their Fifth Amendment right against testifying for fear of self-incrimination as the trial in Steubenville entered its third day. Their testimony is a crucial part of the state's evidence because the West Virginia girl says she doesn't remember what happened.

Football players Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, are charged with digitally penetrating the girl early Aug. 12, first in a car and then in the basement of a house. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The two maintain their innocence.

Testimony in the trial wrapped up late Friday as a judge, who's hearing the case without a jury, pushed to finish the unprecedented case, which is continuing through the weekend. The accuser was expected to testify Saturday.

The case so far has featured disturbing testimony from teens, both in person and in graphic text messages, and has cast an unwelcome light on what students in the community once considered rapid-fire but private conversations.

The three teen witnesses granted immunity, as well as other teens who testified, winced at times Friday as they were forced to read adult language in texts sent several months.

Cole testified Friday that he took a video of Mays and the girl in the car, then deleted it. Westlake testified he saw Richmond's encounter with the girl in the basement. Craig testified about two photos of the alleged basement attack that he also deleted.

The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of a pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.

If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail until they turn 21.

Cole, 17, testified that he filmed Mays digitally penetrate the girl in the car. A prosecutor asked him why he then deleted the video later that morning.

"It was one of those moments when you realize you did something stupid and wrong that night, so I deleted it," Cole replied.

Cole testified he saw Mays unsuccessfully try to have the girl perform oral sex on him later in the basement of Cole's house. Cole also testified that the girl was intoxicated and slurring her words.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Walter Madison suggested that the girl was behaving no differently than anyone else the night of the party.

Madison, who represents Richmond, suggested that Cole was remembering events differently because so much attention was now being paid to what happened. Cole agreed with Madison's suggestions.

Cole testified he saw Mays and the girl asleep under a blanket on the couch later in the morning.

"Did anybody behave in a way to make you think that something was wrong?" Madison asked.

"No," Cole said.

Westlake, the second witness granted immunity, testified that he saw Richmond digitally penetrate the girl in the basement of Cole's house.

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