Grand Jury To Investigate Rape In Steubenville, Ohio

fromWKSU

Two Ohio high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl on an alcohol-fueled night last August have been found guilty and sentenced to jail. Investigators are looking into who else might have committed crimes in connection with the rape.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The headline-making teen rape trial in Steubenville, Ohio, is over. That small town along the Ohio River was a pretty quiet place until last summer, when Steubenville found itself at the center of a national story. Two high school football players were charged with raping a teenage girl. The crime was documented on social media; an Instagram photo of the victim being held by the two boys, by her arms and legs. Videos from the night of the assault also surfaced.

Yesterday, the case ended with guilty verdicts. Tim Rudell, of member station WKSU, reports.

TIM RUDELL, BYLINE: Twenty minutes is all it took for the judge to convene court Sunday morning and pronounce the Steubenville Big Red football players guilty. Four days of testimony about whether they had raped a 16-year-old girl who'd been drinking with them wrapped up the night before. She has been known throughout the trial as Jane Doe.

Cheers went up outside the Jefferson County, Ohio, Justice Center. Protesters like Cindy Colson, of Steubenville, had gathered in the midst of a sea of satellite trucks to await the verdicts.

CINDY COLSON: This is for Jane Doe. She's going to start to heal, and that's the main thing. She got the word that she needed to hear.

RUDELL: Meanwhile, dozens of people in Guy Fawkes masks, who came to town with the loose-knit Anonymous group, exchanged congratulations, claiming a role in bringing about the trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah, this is about human dignity and respect and now, this shows the world that in Steubenville, you've got to treat your ladies right.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE FROM CROWD)

RUDELL: Inside the courtroom, the victim's mother read a statement before Judge Thomas Lipps moved to sentencing. Here's part of what she told the boys.

(SOUNDBITE OF COURTROOM STATEMENT)

RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER: Your decisions that night affected countless lives, including those most dear to you. You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on. This does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow and move on. I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions, and pray hard for his forgiveness.

RUDELL: One defendant is 16, and the other is 17. Because they are juveniles, the judge handed down sentences with minimums of one year and two years behind bars, respectively, but with maximums for each teen of incarceration until his 21st birthday. The 16-year-old defendant could be overheard in the court saying, "my life is over" to his attorney, when the sentence was pronounced. When court adjourned, both defense teams asserted their clients' innocence, claiming the convictions were mistakes, and said they would be appealing them. Then, Ohio Attorney General Michael DeWine held a news conference, to say the investigation of the rape incident is not ending with the trial and convictions.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CONFERENCE)

MICHAEL DEWINE: We've been involved in an extensive investigation trying to determine, trying to learn if any other individuals committed any crimes. While we have interviewed almost 60 individuals, 16 people refused to talk to our investigators. I have reached the conclusion that we cannot bring finality to this matter without the convening of a grand jury.

RUDELL: DeWine also said finding out and revealing as much as possible about the Steubenville case can help communities around the country.

DEWINE: Maybe there's been a bigger spotlight on this; now we understand it better. That's good. But if - I'm afraid is, we just go back and say, oh, that was something bad happened in Steubenville; it didn't happen anyplace else. It does. It's happening in your neighborhood. It's happening in your town. It's happening in your village, your city.

RUDELL: The teens convicted in Steubenville were sent to a juvenile correction facility near Columbus. For NPR News, I'm Tim Rudell.

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