Video attracts OSU’s attention

COLUMBUS – Ohio State University is “closely monitoring” the case of two Steubenville High School students charged with rape after a video of a university student speaking flippantly about the alleged crime and mocking the victim surfaced online.

In the more than 12-minute video, the young man laughs while cracking crude jokes and says the 16-year-old girl involved is “so raped right now.” He wears an Ohio State T-shirt as he makes light of her condition on the night of the alleged crime and refers to her as being dead. Witnesses testified that the girl was intoxicated to the point of unconsciousness.

The young man, also a Steubenville High School graduate, jokes about the girl being sodomized and urinated on, although no evidence to support those claims has been presented in Jefferson County Juvenile Court, where the case is being prosecuted.

Gayle Saunders, Ohio State assistant vice president of media and public relations, offered the following comment: “Sexual assault is a terrible act of aggression and violence, and our hearts go out to all victims. The situation in Steubenville is particularly disturbing, and our thoughts are with those affected.

“We are closely monitoring this case and the criminal charges that have been brought against two Ohio high school students. To the extent that there is any relationship to any Ohio State student, the university is not at liberty to comment on institutional disciplinary proceedings due to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regulations.”

An overwhelming number of people, including Ohio State alumni, posted searing messages on the university’s Facebook page criticizing the school for not taking action against the student and demanding his dismissal. Some even threatened to withdraw their support for the university if the student is not dismissed.

“As an OSU alum, I am sickened at the thought that this man has the potential to receive a degree from my Alma Mater,” one man wrote. “I encourage all OSU students, staff, and alumni to petition the university for his immediate dismissal.”

Another person wrote “Although I do not attend OSU, I wholeheartedly support any action to immediately expel this (student) and urge everyone to submit an e-mail demanding his expulsion.”

Amy Murry, assistant director of media and public relations, on Thursday said the student was enrolled for second semester classes, which begin Monday.

On Friday, however, Saunders said the student “was in attendance at Ohio State only through Dec. 12.” Saunders would not offer further explanation on the man’s enrollment status.

Students typically are not dismissed from the university unless they have been charged with a crime or violate the student code of conduct, Murray noted. Any student being considered for dismissal has the right to a hearing in front of an administrative board, but the board’s decision on the student’s fate is not made public, she said.

Attorney General Mike DeWine termed the video “despicable” and “disgusting.” He said the video essentially has no effect on the prosecution of the two teens charged, and he does not expect it to be presented as evidence during their trial.

The video reportedly was posted to YouTube on the same night or shortly after the alleged crime occurred in August.

It was quickly removed before hacker collective KnightSec again uploaded it to the video sharing website earlier this week and attracted national media attention.

The 16-year-old defendants’ trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 13. In addition to a charge of rape, one of the two defendants has been charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.