STEUBENVILLE - The attorney for one of two female juveniles charged Tuesday with intimidation of a witness said law enforcement authorities may have overreacted because of heightened interest in a recent trial that saw two male juveniles convicted of the rape of a 16-year-old Weirton girl.
"The social media comment wasn't directed toward the victim, but toward the people making comments to my client. My client is 15 years old and was being harassed because she made supporting comments on the social media regarding one of the defendants recently convicted during the juvenile rape trial and conviction. People are attacking her. She is being victimized for her comments," said defense attorney Francesca Carinci.
The arrest Monday afternoon by City Police was the latest twist to the case against two Steubenville High School students who were found delinquent for raping a 16-year-old Weirton girl last August.
Jefferson County Juvenile Court Judge Samuel Kerr addressed two female juveniles Tuesday morning during a detention hearing that saw the two girls sent back to the juvenile detention center until a March 27 hearing. -- Dave Gossett
Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, of Steubenville and Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale were sentenced to confinement at the Ohio Department of Youth Services after they were found delinquent Sunday morning by visiting Judge Thomas Lipps following a four-day trial held at the Jefferson County Justice Center.
"First of all, I think we all need to calm down and reflect on what the kids really said. My client is a good student who has never been in trouble. She worked with me during the holidays serving food to people in need at a local church. She and I have worked together on church functions. We are seeing an unfortunate reaction to kids talking on social media," Carinci told reporters following a Tuesday morning detention hearing in Jefferson County Common Pleas Court.
"I respect the sheriff's department and the prosecutor's office for doing their job. But I hope we can keep this in the proper context. She apologized almost immediately after posting the tweet," added Carinci.
According to Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, the 15-year old girl tweeted, "going to celebrate by beating the s-- out of *****."
The two female teenagers were sent back to the county juvenile detention center Tuesday by Juvenile Court Judge Samuel Kerr during the brief detention hearing after Assistant Prosecutor Sam Pate requested the two remain detained "to protect a person from immediate or threatened harm."
Both girls started crying before they were taken back to the detention center.
"My client is unfamiliar with the justice center. This is all unfamiliar to her. As I said, she has never been in trouble. She is a good student and a good person," Carinci said.
An adjudication hearing for the two girls is scheduled for March 27 in juvenile court.
Neither girl officially was identified, but according to Pate, both teens were charged Tuesday morning with felony intimidation of a witness and aggravated menacing and telecommunication harassment, both misdemeanours.
The 16-year-old female did not have an attorney at the detention center, but her older sister and guardian, Raven Harris, said the juvenile was quoting a rap song in her tweet.
Harris also said her family has been threatened on social media because they are related to Richmond and said officials have ignored those threats.
"We've been getting threats and no one is locked up for it. We're being harassed because we're related to Ma'Lik. People should take it out on family members for what he was accused of doing," said Harris.
Harris said her sister was quoting lyrics from a song by rap artist Meek Mill when she tweeted "You ripped my family apart. You made my cousin cry. So when I see you b-- it's going to be a homicide."
"People put lyrics on the Internet every day and aren't charged with a crime. We are definitely going to fight this," noted Harris.
Pate said there may be more arrests in the future as the investigation into threats on social media continues.
"These type of threats must stop," stated Pate.
Steubenville Police Chief Bill McCafferty said he and Juvenile Detective Erik Dervis still are pursuing information about a male juvenile who allegedly made comments about the rape victim.
"We take these threats very seriously," McCafferty said.
McCafferty also said Nathaniel Richmond, the father of Ma'Lik Richmond, filed a report with the police department Monday citing, "threatening messages made against himself and his family on Facebook."
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)