STEUBENVILLE - Ma'Lik Richmond was classified as a Tier II sex offender Friday and will be required to report to the county sheriff where he is living every six months for the next 20 years.
Richmond was convicted in March along with co-defendant Trent Mays of raping a female juvenile from Weirton last August.
Mays was sentenced to a minimum of two years in a Department of Youth Services facility. Richmond was sentenced to a minimum of one year in a state youth detention center.
Ma'Lik Richmond was flanked at the defense table Friday morning by Brooke Burns, left, of the Ohio Public Defender's office and defense attorney Walter Madison, partially hidden by his laptop computer, during a sex offender classification hearing Friday. Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps ruled Richmond will be considered a Tier II sex offender for the next 20 years. Richmond and Trent Mays were found guilty in March of raping a 16-year old Weirton female last August. -- Dave Gossett
Mays was classified as a Tier II sex offender by visiting Judge Thomas Lipps during a June hearing but Richmond's classification hearing was delayed because his attorney, Walter Madison, had filed several motions, including a challenge to the constitutionality of the sex offender ranking for juveniles, saying the appellate courts and Ohio Supreme Court have ruled the sexual classification system for both adults and juveniles do not violate the constitution.
Madison also asked Lipps to delay Richmond's classification hearing but the judge overruled all of the defense motions.
Lipps also said he will not oppose Richmond's transfer from the Cuyahoga Hill Department of Youth Services near Cleveland to the Paint Creek Lighthouse Youth Center, a privately run facility for juvenile sex offenders near Chillicothe.
Lipps noted the DYS facility near Cleveland has 30 double bunk beds in a building.
"Paint Creek has individual rooms and a very good treatment center. If you meet the conditions and DYS and Paint Creek agree you should go to the Paint Creek facility, I will not stand in the way," Lipps told Richmond.
Lipps then cited the 1996 Megan's Law and the 2008 Adam Walsh Act before announcing his decision to classify the 17-year old Richmond as a Tier II sex offender.
"I have read the assessments and there is more remorse now than when he went he first went to the DYS. He is thinking about the victim and how his actions affected her. He is not going backward but is going forward," Lipps stated.
"There is no standard criteria for the court to consider. This was a rape felony in the first degree. The age of the victim and the defendant are about the same. The defendant has no prior record. There is no evidence the defendant gave the victim any alcohol. There is a high degree of public interest in this case. And throughout this case I noticed the desire to tell others what they were doing. There was no physical harm, but definitely psychological harm to the victim," noted Lipps.
"I have to balance a judgment from what I have seen before. And I have thought about this case before coming here today," added Lipps before announcing his decision.
Madison and state public defender Brooke Burns called Dr. Tiffany Dent, a psychologist who works with juvenile sex offenders, as a witness who testified regarding a 2005 study that addressed the psychological impact on juveniles who are required to register as sex offenders.
"The study found registered juvenile sex offenders do not pursue a career when an employer might find out they are a registered sex offender. The juveniles also suffer from social isolation," Dent cited.
"According to what was written in the Department of Youth Services report Ma'Lik, is taking to the treatment plan," Dent said.
She later testified under cross examination that she does not agree juveniles should be classified as sex offenders.
"There is no research to show it makes a difference," Dent testified.
Burns said the DYS treatment notes show, "Ma'Lik has been doing very well. He is very remorseful and is doing a good job helping other juveniles. He is moving toward a successful rehabilitation. If the court issues a classification it should be the lowest tier."
Attorney Brian Deckert of the Ohio Attorney General's office said the victim's family asked the judge to consider their statement read during the classification hearing for Mays held in June.
During that hearing, the victim's mother read a statement to Lipps asking Mays be given a lifetime sex offender reporting requirement.
"We realize that we have no choice but to accept the light sentence awarded to these boys, but we strongly feel that Trent Mays made a very conscious choice to publicly shame my daughter by posting and sending pornographic pictures of her unconscious body to the public. Due to the fact that these pictures can never possibly be removed from public access, this has become a life sentence for her. We encourage the judge to consider the choice of a lifetime sexual offender registration for Trent. My child's name and face will forever remain attached to his crime because of his actions. Since this crime, she has endured countless ridiculing comments from all public avenues that have caused her great pain and stress. This will never leave my daughter, therefore it should never leave him," the mother said.
Deckert urged Lipps to consider Richmond's age at the time of the rape as well the nature of the defense when making his decision.
"The DYS report says Richmond has shown genuine remorse toward the victim. And public interest in this case is obviously very high. The safety of all involved is another factor you should consider. The classification should be the same as Trent Mays. What Mays received would be appropriate for Richmond," argued Deckert
After reading the page long explanation of duties to register as a juvenile offender registrant, Lipps signed the document and asked Richmond, his parents and his guardians to also sign the document.
Also present at the hearing were the victim's family and their attorney, Robert Fitzsimmons.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)