Separate trials are denied

STEUBENVILLE – The attorney for one of two Steubenville High School student-athletes charged with raping a 16-year-old girl last summer says a judge has declined a request to give the defendants separate trials.

Attorney Walter Madison, who represents Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville confirmed in an e-mail Tuesday that visiting judge Tom Lipps, who is handling the case in juvenile court, had denied the request.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, wouldn’t comment.

Madison and Brian Duncan, who represents Trent Mays, 16, of Bloomingdale, the other teen charged in the case, have filed motions to delay the trial set for next month. Madison also has sought to move the trial out of town and close it to the public. A hearing on those requests is scheduled to be held Friday beginning at 1 p.m..

The case has gained international attention through the work of bloggers and hacker-activists who allege that other football players should be charged but are being protected by a cover-up. A video and photo posted online also have drawn attention to the case.

Duncan filed his motion Friday and expects to file another motion this week to have the trial moved.

The trial for Richmond and Mays, who have both been charged with rape, is scheduled to begin on Feb. 13 in the Jefferson County Justice Center. Mays also has been charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. There will be no jury. Lipps will make the decision of guilt or innocence. Attorneys for both defendants have denied the charges in court.

In a statement earlier this month, Duncan urged the public not to let the case reflect on the Steubenville area in general. He also acknowledged the role of social media in the case but again urged people not to draw conclusions.

“We certainly recognize that the video, photograph, alleged facts and surrounding circumstances set forth on the Internet and portrayed in the media would cause even the most optimistic of men to call into question the defendants’ presumption of innocence,” Duncan said in the Jan. 9 statement.

“We must be careful in this age of social media to ensure that the words set forth do in fact portray the actual story,” he said.

The 12-minute video shows a former Big Red athlete, Michael Nodianos, who was not involved in the attack but apparently aware of it, joking about it while others in the background chime in.

In a photograph, two boys are seen carrying the girl by her arms and legs, according to the transcript of an October hearing where a judge heard testimony before deciding whether the teens should be charged.

At that hearing, three other high school students testified to seeing the attack on the girl from Weirton. Two of those students also recorded a video and photograph of the attacks on their phones, but deleted the images shortly afterward. Those students were told at the hearing that they would have been charged had investigators found the images.

In letters to attorneys for each of the three students last fall, prosecutors said that while each student “may not have conducted himself in a responsible or appropriate manner, his behavior did not rise to the level of criminal conduct,” according to copies of the letters obtained by The Associated Press through a records request.

Prosecutors added in each case that, “we will not prosecute your client for his actions” on the weekend of the alleged attack in August, the letters said.