Rape case hearing today

STEUBENVILLE – News media from around the country were expected to be in a Jefferson County Justice Center juvenile courtroom this afternoon arguing that an upcoming trial for two Steubenville High School student-athletes charged with rape should be kept open.

But, an attorney for one of the juveniles who has been charged, the victim’s lawyer and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine are expected to argue the trial should be closed to the media and the public.

Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville have been charged with rape in connection with an incident that allegedly happened 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 victim in an outgoing text message on his cell phone. Attorneys for both defendants have said their clients are innocent.

Retired Hamilton County Juvenile Judge Tom Lipps was to hear motions at 1 p.m. today on closing further hearings, moving the trial out of the county and for a continuance.

The trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 13. Lipps will make the determination of guilt or innocence after the trial, and there will be no jury.

Attorney Walter Madison, who represents Richmond, said the social media coverage of the case and the involvement of the hacktavist group Anonymous could result in witness intimidation. Madison has claimed Anonymous has threatened retaliation against anyone who it sees as helping the defendants. That is why he is asking the trial be held behind closed doors.

DeWine, whose office is prosecuting the case, said he will ask the trial be closed to protect the victim.

“We’re dealing with a 16-year-old victim,” DeWine said. “It’s difficult enough for her to testify without testifying in front of the whole world.”

An attorney representing the girl and her family has filed a motion to close the trial,

Attorney Robert Fitzsimmons said the girl has tried to keep her anonymity throughout the proceedings. He also said the media may report on inadmissible evidence presented during the trial.

The national news media has covered the case, with some of those news organizations raising questions about a cover-up by local law enforcement.

National and state news organizations also are expected to have legal representation at the hearing today.

The Herald-Star will have an attorney present to argue the trial should remain open.

“Closure of these proceedings would only intensify these concerns and fan the flames of any perception that the allegations will not be handled properly,” said Columbus attorney Kevin Shook in his filing on behalf of the AP, ABC, CNN, CBS News, The New York Times and WEWS-TV.

Mays’ attorneys have filed motions for a continuance of the trail and for it to be moved out of Jefferson County.