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Steubenville, Ohio, high school rape trial turns to texts, photos

A small group of people take part in a protest outside the Juvenile Court building in Steubenville, Ohio, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Cohn
A small group of people take part in a protest outside the Juvenile Court building in Steubenville, Ohio, March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Cohn

By Drew Singer

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (Reuters) - One of two high school football players in Ohio accused of raping a girl at a party last summer had pictures of the teen on his cell phone from that night, a state forensic analyst testified on Thursday.

The pictures were among thousands of text messages, photographs and other files recovered from 17 mobile devices in the investigation, said Joann Gibb, a forensic analyst for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Steubenville quarterback Trent Mays, 17, and wide receiver Ma'lik Richmond, 16, are accused of raping the girl as she lay naked on the basement floor, too drunk to move or speak. The girl told police she did not remember what happened, but reported the incident the next day. They have denied raping her and say the sex was consensual.

It is Reuters policy not to name rape victims.

The case went viral on social media when photos and a video of the alcohol-fueled party were posted. The rape case in the Ohio steel town of Steubenville has drawn national attention and computer hacking group Anonymous organized protests accusing the town of covering up the involvement of more players.

Gibb read pages of transcripts from text messages recovered from the mobile devices and confirmed photos that were entered into evidence as the trial continued into its second day.

Data recovered from Mays' phone suggests the pictures were stored and also sent to other people, Gibb said.

Gibb read sometimes graphic text messages between the girl and her friends, and between the accused football players and their friends in the days after the party.

"I don't know who to ask or believe," Gibb said the girl said in a text to Anthony Craig the day after the party. Craig testified for prosecutors at the pre-trial hearing and was expected also to testify at the trial.

Craig told her she was naked when he left for the evening and texted her that he could nothing about it. "I am sorry," Gibb said.

Gibb said she then replied by text, "Who was there? Who did that to me?" and later, "I hate my life."

Craig and two other members of Stuebenville's storied "Big Red" football team are expected to testify at the trial. They already testified against their two teammates in a preliminary hearing after receiving assurances they would not be charged for their actions that night.

Mays and Richmond are on trial before visiting Hamilton County Judge Tom Lipps. If convicted, Mays and Richmond could have to stay at a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21 and then have to register as sex offenders.

In brief opening statements on Wednesday in the non-jury trial, prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter told Lipps the girl was too drunk to make a decision about her welfare and promised to present evidence of the alleged rape culled from social media pictures and online postings.

Lawyers for the boys say the sex was consensual and the victim had told friends in advance she wanted to have sex with the players. They also have said separating fact from rumor is critical because the girl remembers almost nothing from the night.

(Writing by James B. Kelleher and David Bailey; Editing by Tom Brown and Lisa Shumaker)

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