If you thought hackers and the media had brought a lot of attention upon the tough town of Steubenville, Ohio, just wait until everyone gets to see the legal fate of two of its high-school football stars accused of sexual assault play out in public there. In the culmination of a surprise development, the visiting judge in the case of Trent Mays and Malik Richmond ruled Wednesday that the media will be allowed in the courtroom when the proceedings begin in a little less than two months.
Judge Thomas Lipps moved the trial date from February 13 to March 13 at the request of attorneys for the two boys, but he also ruled that the trial will remain in Steubenville — the defense had long been pushing for a change of venue, citing “threats” after the spotlight descended upon the lower-middle-class town late last year from the media, and then again earlier this year when a group associated with the hacker collective Anonymous began releasing documents online.
“In Ohio, the decision to keep a juvenile case secret is left up to a judge,” reported the Toledo Blade. But then there’s the case of the alleged victim: “Prosecutors with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office told Judge Lipps that the trial should be sealed to protect the victim,” the Blade report added. And WTOV-TV adds: ”Another motion filed by defense attorney Walter Madison to refer to the teenage girl as ‘the accuser’ in this case was also denied.” Though that may seem like squabbling over semantics, it will become serious business when the court decides just how the world will get to know the Jane Doe in this case — especially since preliminary testimony has already revealed some of the key witnesses in this case. Mays and Richmond are still being charged as minors, with photographic evidence of the girl being violated likely to be re-submitted as evidence and Mays facing a charge involving illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
But there you have it: For better or worse and in some form or another, the victim, the accused, and all court proceedings will be on display for public consumption. The ongoing public outcry over the case, though it has quelled while court proceedings developed these past two weeks, has centered on the idea that the details of this case has not been publicly exposed enough — and that this small football city was somehow colluding to obscure the facts and possibly hide a larger crime by what the hackers at LocalLeaks called the Steubenville “rape crew.” Considering the amount of attention paid to what the New York Times called a “decaying steel town” small Ohio town over the past few weeks, exposure is probably not going to be the problem when the TV trucks inevitably descend in March.