Judge won't split Ohio teens' rape trial, lawyer says

The case has gained international attention through the work of bloggers and hacker-activists who allege that other football players should be charged but are being protected by a cover-up.

COLUMBUS, Ohio  — The attorney for one of two Ohio high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl last summer says a judge has declined a request to give the defendants separate trials.

Attorney Walter Madison confirmed in an email Tuesday that the visiting judge handling the case in juvenile court in Steubenville had denied the request.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case, wouldn't comment.

Attorneys for both teenagers have filed motions to delay the trial set, for next month. Madison, attorney for defendant Ma'Lik Richmond, has also sought to move the trial out of town and close it to the public.

The case has gained international attention through the work of bloggers and hacker-activists who allege that other football players should be charged but are being protected by a cover-up. A video and photo posted online also have drawn attention to the case.

In a statement earlier this month, Brian Duncan, an attorney for the second defendant, Trent Mays, urged the public not to let the case reflect on the Steubenville area in general. He also acknowledged the role of social media in in the case but again urged people not to draw conclusions.

"We certainly recognize that the video, photograph, alleged facts, and surrounding circumstances set forth on the Internet and portrayed in the media would cause even the most optimistic of man to call into question the defendants' presumption of innocence," Duncan said in the Jan. 9 statement.

"We must be careful in this age of social media to ensure that the words set forth do in fact portray the actual story," he said.

The 12-minute video shows a student who was not involved in the attack but apparently aware of it joking about it while others in the background chime in.

In a photograph, the two defendants are apparently seen carrying the girl by her arms and legs, according to the transcript of an October hearing where a judge heard testimony before deciding whether the teens should be charged.

At that hearing, three other high school students testified to seeing the attack on the girl from nearby Weirton, W.Va. Two of those students also recorded a video and photograph of the attacks on their phones, but deleted the images shortly afterward. Those students were told at the hearing that they would have been charged had investigators found the images.

In letters to attorneys for each of the three students last fall, prosecutors said that while each student "may not have conducted himself in a responsible or appropriate manner, his behavior did not rise to the level of criminal conduct," according to copies of the letters obtained by The Associated Press through a records request.

Prosecutors added in each case that, "we will not prosecute your client for his actions" on the weekend of the alleged attack in August, the letters said.

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