Two teenage girls from Steubenville have been arrested and charged with sending online threats to a 16-year-old rape victim whose attackers were convicted after using social media to swap pictures, videos and texts of their actions.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday that the girls were arrested Monday afternoon in the small town about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh where a juvenile court judge on Sunday convicted Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of rape.
Richmond was sentenced to at least one year in juvenile detention. Mays, who was also convicted of having nude pictures of the victim on his cellphone, was given at least two years.
“Let me be clear. Threatening a teenage rape victim will not be tolerated,” DeWine said in a statement on the attorney general’s website. “If anyone makes a threat verbally or via the Internet, we will take it seriously, we will find you, and we will arrest you.”
DeWine said the threats appeared online shortly after Sunday’s sentencing and that two Steubenville girls, one 15 and one 16, were arrested and taken to the Jefferson County Juvenile Detention Center.
The 16-year-old was charged with a misdemeanor count of aggravated menacing for threatening the victim’s life; the younger girl was charged with a misdemeanor count of menacing for threatening bodily harm. Both threats were made via Twitter.
The Steubenville Herald Star reported that the girls were also charged with intimidation of a witness, which is a felony. It said both were ordered to remain in juvenile detention until a hearing March 27. They were not identified.
Francesca Carinci, the attorney for the 15-year-old, described her client as a “very good girl” who was responding to comments made against her for supporting one of the rapists, the Star Herald reported. It quoted the 16-year-old’s guardian and older sister as saying she was only quoting from a rap song in her allegedly threatening tweet.
Police also are investigating whether the father of Ma’Lik Richmond, Nathaniel Richmond, received threats via Facebook. The elder Richmond spoke at the sentencing, saying he bore some responsibility for his son’s actions by not being a good father figure.
Police Chief Bill McCafferty told the Herald Star that afterward, the elder Richmond filed a police report citing “threatening messages made against himself and his family on Facebook.”
Shortly after Sunday’s verdict, DeWine announced that he would ask Jefferson County to convene a grand jury next month to determine if further charges should be filed against witnesses who failed to report the rape and against adults who might have been aware of the rape but covered it up.
Of particular interest is the Steubenville High School football coach and other school officials who would have been required to report a suspected crime involving children in their care. Both boys were members of the high school varsity football team.
During the trial, text messages from Mays’ phone were offered as evidence and indicated that he had told the coach about the encounters and been assured that the coach would protect him from prosecution.
Mays and Richmond were charged with raping the girl twice, after she became so intoxicated that she could not walk unaided and could barely speak. Both claimed the sexual acts were consensual. But evidence — including scores of text messages, pictures and videos — indicated the girl was barely conscious much of the time. The texts also showed that Mays had attempted to craft a story to cover up his actions after allegations of wrongdoing began circulating.
By Tina Susman - Los Angeles Times (MCT)
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