COLUMBUS, Ohio — Witnesses for two high school football players facing rape in eastern Ohio have been threatened and pressured not to testify and some are reluctant to come forward, attorneys for the players said Monday as they consider whether to ask the trial be moved and closed to the public.
The current juvenile court judge overseeing the case
scheduled next month in Steubenville has previously declined a request
to close the proceedings.
"They are reluctant to sacrifice their college career,
their reputation, or their otherwise good standing in whatever community
they may be found for fear of being vilified, and certain personal
information finding its way on the Internet," said Walter Madison, an
attorney for 16-year-old defendant Ma'Lik Richmond.
Brian Duncan, an attorney for the other 16-year-old defendant, Trent Mays, also said Monday he's considering a similar request.
"We just want to make sure our client and the other defendant have their proper day in court," Duncan said.
The two boys are set for trial next month in juvenile
court in Steubenville, a city of about 18,000, on charges that they
raped a 16-year-old girl in August. Their attorneys have denied the
charges in court.
Public interest in the case increased with the online
circulation of the video, more than 12 minutes long, that shows one
young man joking about the accuser following the alleged attack. The
hackers who released the video allege more people were involved and
should be held accountable.
On Monday, an attorney said the young man regretted the comments, made when he was intoxicated.
The attorney said in a statement that the man, a 2012
graduate of Steubenville High School and an Ohio State University
academic scholarship student this past fall, was ashamed and embarrassed
about his comments and the effect his behavior has had, especially on
The man is not a suspect in the investigation and was
not present at the alleged attack, said attorney Dennis McNamara of
Columbus. He said the man he referred to as "Michael" left a party
around midnight where he was told the victim had been drinking
and went to a friend's house where the video was recorded about 2 a.m.
on Aug. 12.
"There is no excuse or justification for the comments and jokes Michael made on the video," the statement said.
"With sober reflection, he is ashamed and embarrassed,"
the statement said. "He sincerely regrets his behavior and the effect
it has had on all parties involved, especially his family. He was not
raised to act in this manner."
The statement said the young man played sports but not football at Steubenville.
As the investigation continues, it has spurred heated
commentary online. Some support the defendants and question the
character of the teenage girl, while others allege a cover-up or contend
more people should be charged.