When Football Trumps Humanity

This post contains graphic descriptions of a violent sexual assault on a minor. Read with caution.

The story begins back in August 2012 at an end-of-summer party in Steubenville, Ohio that was mostly attended by high school students. Parties like this are common and nearly always a bit of harmless fun. The Steubenville Big Red football team is the pride of the area, and one of the gatherings was at the home of a volunteer coach. The New York Times has a write up on the events.

Some in the crowd, which would grow to close to 50 people, arrived with beer. Those who did not were met by cases of it and a makeshift bar of vodka, rum and whiskey, all for the taking, no identification needed. In a matter of no time, many of the partygoers — many of them were high school athletes — were imbibing from red plastic cups inside the home of a volunteer football coach at Steubenville High at what would be the first of several parties that night.

Before dawn, things took a darker turn, especially for one 16 year old.

By sunrise, though, some people in and around Steubenville had gotten word that the night of fun on Aug. 11 might have taken a grim turn, and that members of the Steubenville High football team might have been involved. Twitter posts, videos and photographs circulated by some who attended the nightlong set of parties suggested that an unconscious girl had been sexually assaulted over several hours while others watched. She even might have been urinated on.

The details are horrific.

She is not a Steubenville High student; she attended a smaller, religion-based school, where she was an honor student and an athlete.

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.

About two hours later, the girl left the party with several Big Red football players, including Mays and Richmond, witnesses said. They stayed only briefly at a second party before leaving for their third party of the night. Two witnesses testified that the girl needed help walking. One testified that she was carried out of the house by Mays and Richmond while she “was sleeping.”

She woke up long enough to vomit in the street, a witness said, and she remained there alone for several minutes with her top off. Another witness said Mays and Richmond were 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.

It was only after videos and photographs of the attack surfaced on the internet that she was aware of what had happened. Despite the presence of this evidence, there has been considerable support for the attackers. One volunteer coach and ex-star has been outspoken about the incident.

The rape was just an excuse, I think,” said the 27-year-old Hubbard, who is No. 2 on the Big Red’s career rushing list.

“What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?” said Hubbard, who is one of the team’s 19 coaches. “She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.

The article describes threats against those who have spoken out against the players. The investigation has been hindered by the refusal of witnesses to talk about what happened.

One man said he wanted to see the accused boys go to prison, but insisted he remain anonymous because he did not want his house to be a target for vandalism.

Most of the pictures have been deleted  from the web and the police do not consider they have an airtight case. The town is split over the accusations, with many claiming that the culture of football worship allows players a level of freedom from prosecution that others do not have. The victim has been ostracized by many of her friends and in other cases, parents have kept their children away from her.

More recently, a cell within Anonymous called “Knight Sec”  have hacked computers and email accounts belonging to some of the people purportedly involved and compiled information on others. This information has been catalogued on the site Local Leaks in what they call the Steubenville Files. On this page, they name names and list connections between some of the participants. Besides the students involved they list the close connections between the sheriff, the chief prosecutor, the head coach and other members of the community who support the team. Some of the images and videos they have gathered are quite disturbing.

Mainstream sites such as The Raw Story, The Atlantic Wire, The New York Times, and the Huffington Post have all picked up the story. Here is the response on a fan run page for the Steubenville Big Red Football team.

As you are probably aware, this web site was recently hacked into illegally numerous times by a terrorist group. The outrageous claims they made while controlling this site were totally false, completely absurd, and totally unfounded. They were clearly both libelous and slanderous, and were not even intended to reveal truth, but rather simply to get media attention and terrorize the Steubenville community. Innocent people have been greatly harmed.
Unfortunately, several national media outlets, including the New York Times, have recklessly decided to aid and abet these acts of illegality and give the terrorists exactly what they wanted by disseminating inaccurate and legally actionable information and accusations. Incredibly, they have done so without even bothering to contact this web site for comment.
We wish to make it clear that we will pursue legal justice against the perpetrators of these evil acts and all of those in the media who chose to help them.

Roll Red Roll

I don’t agree with hacking his page, but he certainly isn’t showing much empathy for the victim. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how his law suits progress.

The big question is—what happens next? Will this embarrass the local police to pick up the pace of their investigation, will witnesses come forward, or will it all die away. One thing is for sure though: putting athletes or anyone else on a pedestal makes a very unhealthy society. Placing so much emphasis on young people and their athletic ability is asking for trouble, and in Steubenville Ohio, that trouble arrived in spades.

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3 Responses to When Football Trumps Humanity

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