Three witnesses granted immunity
STEUBENVILLE – The prosecution in the Steubenville rape case is expected to call the victim to the stand this morning when the trial continues at 8:30 a.m. before visiting Juvenile Judge Tom Lipps in the Jefferson County Justice Center.
On Friday, three eyewitnesses to the alleged sexual assault were granted immunity by Lipps in order for their testimony to be introduced in court.
Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville have been charged with rape in connection with an incident involving an underage girl that allegedly happened on Aug. 11-12. Mays also faces a charge of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material for allegedly having a picture of the 16-year-old victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone. Attorneys for both defendants have denied the charges.
Steubenville High School students Mark Cole II, 17, Evan Westlake, 18, and Anthony Craig, 18, all took the stand with immunity. They were represented by attorneys.
The prosecution is attempting to prove the victim was so intoxicated she couldn’t have willingly consented to sex. The defense is trying to show the victim wasn’t that intoxicated.
Testimony showed the victim, who lives in Weirton, was drinking vodka at the Belardine home on Wilma Avenue in Steubenville and became intoxicated. When that party was shut down, the victim was taken by the two defendants to the Howarth house on Westwood Drive in Steubenville, where she threw up at least twice. She then was driven to the Cole home outside Wintersville, according to testimony Wednesday and at a probable cause hearing held in October.
Cole said Westlake drove Cole’s car from the Howarth house to the Cole residence. Cole said he was intoxicated and his keys were taken by Westlake. Richmond was in the front passenger seat, with the victim seated behind Westlake. Mays was seated next to her in the middle of the backseat with Cole seated behind Richmond.
Cole said he saw Mays insert his finger inside the victim and he shot a video with his cell phone.
He said the victim was speaking softly but the car stereo was turned up. Cole said the victim wasn’t touching Mays.
At the Cole house, Cole said he saw Mays try to get the victim to perform oral sex on Mays. He said he saw Richmond laying beside the victim and, from the angle where he was standing, couldn’t see exactly what was happening. He said Richmond had his hands in the victim’s crotch area.
Cole said he eventually deleted the video from his phone.
On cross-examination, Cole said Craig came to the house but he didn’t remember if he showed Craig the video.
Westlake said he saw the victim at the Belardine home and she appeared to be intoxicated.
Westlake, while driving Cole’s car, said he heard a commotion in the backseat. He said he heard Mays and Cole laughing. He said he heard someone he thought was Mays say “get this,” possibly referring to Mays telling Cole to record it.
At the Cole house, Westlake said he saw the victim naked on the floor in the basement.
Mays was beside the victim, smacking his penis off her side, Westlake said. Richmond was behind her and was putting two fingers inside her.
Westlake said he wasn’t expecting to be seeing that and wasn’t sure what to think.
When asked by the prosecution why he didn’t stop it, Westlake said the act wasn’t violent and he always pictured rape involving violence.
Back at the Howarth house, he said he recorded Michael Nodianos making the infamous12-minute video that was posted on YouTube. In the recording, Nodianos is seen making crude comments about the incident.
Westlake said he regretted making the video.
He said that decision “makes it difficult to face family and people who supported me all my life knowing what I had done.”
Craig testified that he believed the victim was intoxicated. Craig said when he arrived at the Cole house, Cole showed him portions of a video he had shot in the back of the car.
He then said he saw the victim naked on the basement floor. He said he saw Richmond behind the victim on the floor but couldn’t tell if Richmond was touching her. Craig said Richmond’s face was in a position where he was looking between the victim’s legs. He said Mays was pacing around the room.
Craig said he told them to stop but was told “not to worry,” and that everything would be fine.
Craig said he saw Mays hitting his penis off the victim’s side, and added he took two pictures of the victim,
When asked by the prosecution why he took the pictures, he said, “I don’t know. It was stupid.” When asked by the prosecution why he didn’t go back to help the victim, Craig said, “I assumed they were going to put her to bed.”
Craig said Mays sent him a nude picture of the victim on his cell phone the next day.
Farah Marcino, 16, a Steubenville High School student, said she talked to the victim at the Howarth house. She said the victim was intoxicated, and that she said she tried to convince her to go back with her friends to the Belardine house, but the victim insisted on leaving with Mays and Richmond.
She said she went to the Cole house with Cole and saw the victim and Mays on a couch covered with a blanket. Marcino said she spent the night at the Cole house, waking up around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m.
Mays sent a text message to Marcino that he only put a finger inside the victim and the victim performed a sex act on him, according to phone records obtained by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Marcino said she had a Twitter conversation with the victim in the following days, and the victim said she believed she had been drugged the night of the alleged incident. The victim said tests came back positive that she was drugged, although no evidence has yet to be introduced confirming that.
Brittany Farinacci and Andrea Dennis, two BCI forensic scientists, testified about getting samples from evidence, including a blanket at the Cole house that contained semen samples, ready for DNA testing. Swabs were obtained from several suspects to be used as standards for the DNA testing, according to testimony.
Heather Bizub, a BCI expert in DNA testing, said three samples of semen were tested from the blanket. Two of the semen samples came back positive as coming from Mays. The third test was determined to be insufficient for DNA testing. Also, a single sperm cell was found on the victim’s pants, even though the pants were washed and collected later from investigators.
Bizub said there was insufficient data on the pants to determine a source.
Jean-Philippe Rigaud, who had been the Steubenville Police juvenile detective investigating the case in its early stages before leaving to become a BCI special agent, reviewed the initial stages of the investigation and the evidence collected during his testimony.
The case is being prosecuted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which took over prosecution after Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin stepped aside.
Rigaud said the victim and her parents provided some information about the case, including the names of people who may be involved. One of the suspects mentioned was Hanlin’s son, Charlie Keenan. Rigaud said the investigation showed Keenan wasn’t involved.
Rigaud said the investigation was difficult early on because the victim didn’t remember what had happened.
By Friday evening, the prosecution had introduced 115 pieces of evidence.
Defense attorney Walter Madison, who represents Richmond, questioned Rigaud about Internet information that was posted from the beginning of the investigation and for months after. Madison said the postings were inflammatory.
Lipps said he didn’t want to entertain gossip in the courtroom.
Defense attorney Adam Nemann, who represents Mays, told Lipps during the discussion on immunity for the testimony of eyewitnesses, that a civil lawsuit was imminent, and an attorney representing the victim and her family has been in the courtroom throughout the trial taking notes.
The prosecution is expected to rest its case after the victim’s testimony this morning. The defense will then begin presenting evidence. Lipps indicated the trial may last into Sunday.