, Ohio - The morning after a long night of heavy drinking at several parties, a disheveled 16-year-old Weirton girl lay down on the back seat of her friend's car and cried, a witness testified on Wednesday in the first day of a juvenile rape trial for two high school football players.
"She looked like a mess. Her hair was all messy, and her shirt was inside out with something red on it," Julia Lefever, 17, of Steubenville
testified. "We asked her what happened, and she started crying and said, â€˜I don't remember anything.'"
Trenton Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, are charged with raping the intoxicated, semi-conscious girl at parties attended by dozens of drunk teens in August. They deny involvement.
In a juvenile courtroom inside the Jefferson County Justice Center and Jail, four visibly nervous teens rehashed the lurid details of the night that has brought international scrutiny to this town of 19,000 people.
State prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said Mays and Richmond "degraded and humiliated" the victim in countless ways, even when she was unconscious.
Hemmeter and other witnesses said party-goers took photos of the naked girl and texted the images to friends.
"They treated her like a toy," Hemmeter said. "This was somebody who was too impaired to say â€˜no,' somebody who was too impaired to say â€˜stop.' "
The Tribune-Review does not identify sexual assault victims.
Defense attorneys, however, maintain the girl never lost consciousness or the ability to make decisions. "Everyone's perception of an event is different," Richmond's attorney, Walter Madison of Akron, said outside the courtroom. "This is a court of law, not a court of public opinion."
Lefever said the victim and other friends gathered at her house on the evening of Aug. 11. The victim brought a bottle of vodka with her. Around 8:30 p.m., the girls bought Slushee drinks, passed the bottle around and mixed in the alcohol, Lefever said.
"It seemed like she got drunk extremely fast," she said. "She was slurring her words, and she would stumble when she walked."
They went to a party and the victim left with Mays and Richmond, Lefever said.
"I told her to stay, but she said she'd be fine," Lefever testified. "I went back inside to get someone to help me to keep her to stay, and when I got back outside, she was gone."
At another party, the girl stumbled and Mays and Richmond picked her up by the ankles and wrists and posed for a photos, witnesses said. Later, the victim vomited in the street as an onlooker, Patrick Pizzoferrato, 17, of Steubenville
, told others he would pay $3 if someone urinated on her.
"That was me," Pizzoferrato admitted on the stand. "I said it as a joke."
Mays and Richmond did not speak during the testimony.
Their friends and family packed the small courtroom, while dozens of journalists watched in overflow rooms on a closed-circuit television.
The case sparked outrage and drew international attention in the fall after an online "hacktivist" group called Anonymous published incendiary evidence online, including the photo of the suspects carrying the girl by her ankles and wrists. They and others accused city officials of a cover-up, saying authorities were reluctant to properly investigate the case because it involved members of the town's beloved "Big Red" football team. Officials deny a cover-up.
About two dozen protesters gathered outside the justice center, holding signs in support of the victim and wearing masks, the symbol of Anonymous.
Security was tight at the justice center and Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said people involved in the case had received death threats. He would not say who received the threats or how the threats were made. State officials are investigating the threats, he said.
About 40 people are expected to testify. Authorities said the trial could stretch into the weekend.
Visiting Judge Thomas Lipps, a retired Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge, is presiding over the case.
Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or email@example.com