Rape case will be heard in open court

STEUBENVILLE – The trial of two 16-year-olds charged with raping an underage girl after end-of-summer parties five months ago will be held in open court, visiting Juvenile Judge Thomas Lipps decided today.

Lipps also denied a motion for a change of venue, and continued the trial until March 13, according to a juvenile court official this morning.

Trent Mays of Bloomingdale and Ma’Lik Richmond of Steubenville, student-athletes at Steubenville High School, have been charged with raping the girl, also 16, at a party Aug. 11-12. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, the result of pictures of the naked victim that investigators testified were attached to text messages allegedly sent from his cell phone. Attorneys for both defendants have denied the charges.

Attorneys for the defendants argued Friday in juvenile court in the Jefferson County Justice Center that the trial should be held in another county because of possible witness intimidation.

Adam Nemann, who is representing Mays, arugued that witnesses won’t testify because they feel threatened by the hacktavist group Anonymous. He said some of the witnesses are actually hiring attorneys.

Moving the case to a larger county, such as Franklin County, would ensure a larger law enforcement presence, Nemann said.

Attorney Walter Madison, who represents Richmond, said even Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla has received a death threat over the case to prove his point of threats. He said the sheriff’s department is getting reports of people who feel threatened.

As for closing the trial, attorneys representing local, state and national media argued Friday the trial should be open to the media, saying people would guess at what testimony was presented.

“If the public can see the truth, it can limit speculation and rumors up to this point,” said Kristen Andrews Wilson, who represented Ogden Newspapers and the Herald-Star during Friday’s hearing.

The trial had originally been scheduled to begin Feb. 13.