Ohio AG: threats against rape victim must stop

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Associated Press

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 4:03 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 19 at 5:03 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A girl who was raped by two high school football players is being victimized by threats against her on Twitter, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday as he demanded an end to such postings.

Two girls, 15 and 16, were accused of posting the tweets Sunday following the conviction and sentencing of two boys for raping the 16-year-old West Virginia girl after an alcohol-fueled party.

The older girl was charged with aggravated menacing for a tweet that threatened homicide and said "you ripped my family apart," according to the attorney general's office. The girl is a cousin of defendant Ma'Lik Richmond, attorney general spokesman Dan Tierney said.

A Twitter message from the younger girl threatened the accuser with bodily harm, leading to a menacing charge, DeWine's office said. One of the messages was later reposted on Facebook.

Such threats have to end, DeWine said.

"People have the right to express their point of view, and they have the right to be stupid, and they have the right to be wrong, but they don't have the right under Ohio law to threaten to kill someone," he said.

This is not the first time the girl and her family have been threatened through social media, DeWine said.

"What's sad particularly to me is that the victim has had to go through the rape, the aftermath of the rape, the trial, and she continues to be victimized on the social media," he said.

The girl, who had been drinking heavily, has no memory of the attack. One of the ways she learned that something had happened to her was by viewing parts of a 12-minute YouTube video filmed the night of the attack in which students made crude jokes about her.

The two girls were charged Tuesday with intimidation of a victim, telecommunications harassment and aggravated menacing. They were being held in the Jefferson County juvenile detention center without bond, as is customary with juveniles, said Jefferson County assistant prosecutor Sam Pate.

They would face up to six years in prison if convicted as adults, but it's likely they would be treated as juveniles. That means they could be detained up until their 21st birthdays, if convicted.

The rape case brought international attention to the small city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville High School football team.

Richmond and Trent Mays were charged with penetrating the West Virginia girl with their fingers, first in the back seat of a moving car after a mostly underage drinking party in August, and then in the basement of a house.

Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison for the rapes. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked.

They can be held until they turn 21.

Special Judge Thomas Lipps recommended the boys be assigned to Lighthouse Youth Center-Paint Creek in Chillicothe, which he said has a strong program for treating juvenile sex offenders.

The privately operated center is "staff-secure," according to the Department of Youth Services, meaning it's an open campus where staff members rely on their relationship with residents to prevent escapes.

Staff and children live together at the facility, which has shown success in keeping teens treated there from committing new crimes, said Renee Hagan, juvenile justice division director for Lighthouse Youth Services.

"We form good relationships with kids so they want to buy what we're selling," Hagan said Tuesday.

A grand jury will meet in April to consider charges against anyone who failed to speak up after the Aug. 11 attack. That group could include other teens, parents, school officials and coaches for the high school's beloved football team, which has won nine state championships.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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