It’s a case that has grabbed national headlines and rattled a tight-knit Ohio community: Two high school football players are accused of raping a 16-year-old girl while partying last August, and many community members are calling the investigation a cover-up.This program contains sexual content. Viewer discretion advised.
Ohio Rape Controversy Consumes Small Town
On the evening of August 11, 2012, authorities say high school students in the small town of Steubenville, Ohio, including many popular football players from the local high school, attended a house party where there was allegedly widespread underage drinking. “What started as an end-of-summer party for a group of teens wound up a national scandal,” Dr. Phil says.
According to witnesses, a 16-year-old girl, who was allegedly drunk, vomiting and barely able to walk, left the party with several males and was allegedly sexually assaulted by two of them while she was unconscious. It has been reported that the young woman learned of the evening's events through friends and social media, and days later, her parents went to authorities with a flash drive containing photos, videos and tweets implicating the accused.
Several days later, high school football players Trent Mayes and Ma’lik Richmond, both16, were arrested for sexual assault and kidnapping. The kidnapping charge was later dropped.
Dr. Phil says media reports of preferential treatment for the players took this story to another level.
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On December 23, 2012, Internet hacker group Anonymous threatened to release information on the high school players allegedly involved in the incident unless a public apology was made to the alleged victim and her family by January 1. When the deadline passed without an apology, Anonymous posted an Instragam photo online of the alleged victim being carried by two males along with a 12-minute video showing one teen joking about the alleged assault. Anonymous also posted the names of other partygoers who were allegedly present and reportedly did not intervene. “Everyone who witnessed it is just as guilty as the people who did it,” Anonymous said via its YouTube channel.
The community of Steubenville erupted in protests and the school was put on lockdown because of threats. “Will life in Steubenville ever return to normal?” Dr. Phil asks.
Ma’lik Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, and crime blogger Alexandria Goddard, who once lived in Steubenville and now reports on national crime, join the show.
Dr. Phil asks how 40 to 50 teenagers were allegedly underage drinking. “Where the hell are the adults in this situation? Why isn’t there supervision? Why do they feel so safe that they can talk about this so openly?”
Jeno is a football player and friends with the accused. “Around Steubenville, being on the high school football team is celebrity status," he says. He maintains that he was not at the party that evening, but he does support his friends. His mother, Jill, says she worries Jeno is having nightmares and will face backlash for standing up for his friends.
“I had someone tweet me that the entire football team should kill ourselves,” Jeno says. “Another threat said all football players need to be lined up and shot in the head.”
Jill says she’s concerned about the safety of the children of Steubenville. “There is so much hate,” she says.
Walter explains why he didn’t want Ma’lik to appear on the show. And, does he think his client can get a fair trial in Steubenville? Plus, watch video referencing the alleged incident that even Walter calls “offensive.”
How does Jeno explain his unquestioned loyalty to his friends — the accused. And, Dr. Phil shares his thoughts on the scandal and the inflammatory tweets.
Chief of Police Bill McCafferty weighs in on the rumors of a similar incident in April. And, does he believe all is being done to seek justice in the August incident? “There is a lot of misinformation out there.” Then, Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla opens up about the investigation.
“I think parents need to sit down with boys and say, ‘Look, there are boundaries.’ And boys, you have to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”
Robin Sax, a formal prosecutor specializing in sex crimes against children, worries that raping a drunk girl can make for the perfect crime. And, Dr. Phil shares his most serious concerns.
Jill fiercely defends her town and her son’s allegiance to his friends.
Dr. Phil tells parents to talk to their children about underage drinking and helping a friend in trouble — and encourages young men to hold themselves to a higher standard. He closes on a note about the town: “Don’t paint Steubenville with this brush. This is a good community.”