STEUBENVILLE - The former president of the Steubenville Branch of the NAACP is refuting comments attributed to him in the Thursday edition of an Internet newspaper.
"In no way, shape or form do I condone rape," stated Royal Mayo, currently a member of the executive committee of the Ohio State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Mayo responded Thursday afternoon after a story in the International Business Times quoted him as saying a 16-year-old Weirton girl might have been a willing participant and might have been having consensual sex during a series of parties last August.
Two Steubenville High School students were arrested and charged with raping the girl.
Ma'Lik Richmond and Trent Mays were found delinquent in Jefferson County Juvenile Court on March 17 and sentenced to the Ohio Youth Detention system.
"I don't think Ma'Lik Richmond got a fair trial," Mayo said Thursday.
Mayo made similar comments Tuesday night during the public forum at a Steubenville Council meeting.
"I don't think Ma'Lik Richmond received a fair trial. He was convicted in the court of public opinion before the trial. There has been talk about healing, but that healing can't begin until this wrong is righted," Mayo told council members.
Mayo's remarks in the International Business Times prompted a quick response from the NAACP's national office.
"The NAACP abhors the remarks attributed to Royal Mayo regarding the rape victim in Steubenville. The remarks are Mayo's own, and do not reflect the position of the NAACP and its membership," said Derek Turner, director of communications in the organization's offices in Washington, D.C.
"Rape is a despicable crime of violence. The NAACP understands that comments that blame victims for the actions of their attackers contribute to and perpetuate a culture of acquiescence to rape. The NAACP advocates strongly for a society where victims of rape and sexual assault can come forward and seek legal redress without further retribution from the community, media or society at large," Turner said in a prepared statement.
"Mr. Mayo is not the president of the Steubenville NAACP and is not a spokesman for the NAACP. Mr. Mayo is a committee member with the Ohio State Conference, but is not a spokesperson in that capacity, either. By our by-laws, only the president of an NAACP unit is a spokesperson," Turner added.
"I was speaking for myself not the NAACP," Mayo said Thursday afternoon.
Mayo declined further comment on the rape trial or the International Business Times during the Thursday afternoon telephone call and said he would be discussing the issue with his attorney.
Michael McIntyre, president of the Steubenville Branch of the NAACP, said Thursday afternoon he could not comment on the International Business Times or Mayo's alleged remarks," because our branch is currently under the administration of the state NAACP conference."
Mayo attended the five-day trial of Richmond and Mays in Jefferson County Juvenile Court and is quoted in the online edition of the International Business Times questioning the lack of DNA evidence from all of the teens present at the time of the rape.
Mayo is also quoted in the article as saying there were many things in the case that seemed odd to him, citing inconclusive and not credible evidence against Richmond.
A special grand jury will start meeting in mid-April to determine if other crimes were committed.
"I have reached the conclusion that this investigation cannot be completed, that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury. I am asking the Jefferson County Common Pleas Court to convene a grand jury to meet on or about April 15. My prosecutors will present evidence to this grand jury for it to determine if other crimes have been committed," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced at the Jefferson County Justice Center last week, minutes after Richmond was sentenced to a one-year sentence and Mays to a two-year term by visiting Juvenile Judge Thomas Lipps.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)