Pool via AP
Jefferson County Deputy Sherriff A. Ellenberger, left, listens as prosecuting attorney Marianne Hemmeter asks questions during a rape trial in juvenile court on Thursday in Steubenville, Ohio.
Testimony in the rape trial that has shaken an Ohio steel town focused Thursday on text messages, pictures and cellphone video from the night that a 16-year-old girl claims she was assaulted by two star high school football players.
One exchange entered into evidence included the alleged victim texting a male friend, “I told them ‘no.’”
Investigators from the state crime lab and the local sheriff’s department talked about the forensics of recovering data from phones — a technical hurdle that prosecutors have to clear before the people who sent and received the messages can testify.
The trial opened Wednesday and has cast a harsh spotlight on the town of Steubenville and its beloved Big Red football program. The boys are accused of raping the girl, who was drunk, last August during a night of victory parties.
Digital media will be critical in the trial. The case made national news because graphic cellphone photos and video, including a YouTube posting of a partygoer cracking jokes about the alleged rape, spread on social media.
The prosecution’s evidence includes a photo posted to Instagram of the two defendants, quarterback Trent Mays and wide receive Ma’Lik Richmond, carrying the girl out of a house by her arms and legs.
On Thursday prosecutors called police investigators as witnesses. They focused on the thousands of text messages and photos exchanged among the alleged victim, the defendants and other teens, NBC station WTOV reported.
One witness’s testimony included a text exchange between the accuser and a friend:
Alleged Victim: OMG please tell me this isn't true
Male Friend: Let me find out
Alleged Victim: OMG
Male Friend: You ok?
Alleged Victim: Not at all
Male Friend: You'll be alright. Did you do anything with them? Promise, I won't be mad.
Alleged Victim: I swear. I don't remember doing anything. I remember hearing (the defendant's) voice. I told them 'no.'
Mays is 17 and Richmond 16. If convicted, both could be jailed in a juvenile facility until they are 21.
Opening statements and testimony on Wednesday focused on how inebriated the girl was on the night of the attack. Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said that the girl was “too impaired to say stop” and did not participate in the assault.
A 17-year-old girl who knows the accuser testified that she had never seen her friend so drunk. The defense attempted to show that the girl was making decisions that night and at one point told friends she was OK.