How An Alleged Rape Involving Ohio High School Football Players Unfolded On Twitter, Instagram, And YouTube

Yesterday's New York Times has a thorough and thoroughly unsettling story about two members of Ohio's Steubenville High School football team who stand accused of raping a drunk and unresponsive 16-year-old girl during a night of partying in August. Maybe most unsettling of all: The girl may never have learned of the night's events had they not been so diligently tweeted, YouTubed, and Instagrammed.

The boys—Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16 years old—were arrested Aug. 22, 11 days after the alleged incidents. They are currently awaiting trial, which is scheduled for Feb. 13. The girl is not a Steubenville High School student; according to the Times, she attended "a smaller, religion-based school."

Here's how the Times reconstructs the night in question, based on testimony from a preliminary hearing:

At the parties, the girl had so much to drink that she was unable to recall much from that night, and nothing past midnight, the police said. The girl began drinking early on, according to an account that the police pieced together from witnesses, including two of the three Steubenville High athletes who testified in court in October. By 10 or 10:30 that night, it was clear that the dark-haired teenager was drunk because she was stumbling and slurring her words, witnesses testified.

Some people at the party taunted her, chanted and cheered as a Steubenville High baseball player dared bystanders to urinate on her, one witness testified.

After the second party, the girl "needed help" walking, per the Times. She vomited outside and remained in the street, topless, according to one witness. Another recalled Mays and Richmond holding her hair back.

Afterward, they headed to the home of one football player who has now become a witness for the prosecution. That player told the police that he was in the back seat of his Volkswagen Jetta with Mays and the girl when Mays proceeded to flash the girl's breasts and penetrate her with his fingers, while the player videotaped it on his phone. The player, who shared the video with at least one person, testified that he videotaped Mays and the girl "because he was being stupid, not making the right choices." He said he later deleted the recording.

The girl "was just sitting there, not really doing anything," the player testified. "She was kind of talking, but I couldn't make out the words that she was saying."

At that third party, the girl could not walk on her own and vomited several times before toppling onto her side, several witnesses testified. Mays then tried to coerce the girl into giving him oral sex, but the girl was unresponsive, according to the player who videotaped Mays and the girl.

The player said he did not try to stop it because "at the time, no one really saw it as being forceful."

At one point, the girl was on the ground, naked, unmoving and silent, according to two witnesses who testified. Mays, they said, had exposed himself while he was right next to her.

Richmond was behind her, with his hands between her legs, penetrating her with his fingers, a witness said.

"I tried to tell Trent to stop it," another athlete, who was Mays's best friend, testified. "You know, I told him, ‘Just wait — wait till she wakes up if you're going to do any of this stuff. Don't do anything you're going to regret.' "

He said Mays answered: "It's all right. Don't worry."

That boy took a photograph of what Mays and Richmond were doing to the girl. He explained in court how he wanted her to know what had happened to her, but he deleted it from his phone, he testified, after showing it to several people.

Some photographs taken that night did escape into social media. The one below was captured by the crime blog Prinnified.com; it shows two boys holding the incapacitated girl by her wrists and ankles:

How An Alleged Rape Involving Ohio High School Football Players Unfolded On Twitter, Instagram, And YouTube

Prinnified also published a YouTube video, since deleted (Update: the video can now be seen here.), in which a former Steubenville High School baseball player named Michael Nodianos apparently talks about the accuser and refers to her as a "dead girl." The site also published a screenshot of tweets that party attendees (including Nodianos) had sent out about the girl:

How An Alleged Rape Involving Ohio High School Football Players Unfolded On Twitter, Instagram, And YouTube

That last one was retweeted by at least four people, one of them Mays. Nodianos also tweeted, "Song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana."

The girl learned what had happened later, through the detritus of the night's activities still floating around social media and through subsequent newspaper coverage.

That there was much local coverage at all seems like a small miracle, based on what one source familiar with the Steubenville media told us. The source knew of one instance in which a higher-up ordered a local reporter not to touch the story, apparently out of deference to Steubenville's beloved football program.

Mays, a quarterback, and Richmond, a wide receiver, weren't allowed to play this year. But the school's head football coach, Reno Saccoccia—who testified as a character witness on behalf of Mays and Richmond—decided not to discipline any of the other players who testified to witnessing the assault until there were only two games left in the season. When pressed on this by the Times, the coach became combative:

Saccoccia, pronounced SOCK-otch, told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.

[...]

Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, Saccoccia said he did not "do the Internet," so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.

"You made me mad now," he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.

Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: "You're going to get yours. And if you don't get yours, somebody close to you will."

[NYT]