STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — A "substantially impaired" 16-year-old girl was unable to consent to sex and suffered humiliation and degradation when she was raped by two high school football players after an alcohol-fueled party, a prosecutor said Wednesday at the start of a trial that's drawn international attention to a small, football-loving city in eastern Ohio.
The first day of the juvenile trial became a contest between prosecutors determined to show the girl was so drunk she couldn't have been a willing participant that night, and defense attorneys soliciting comments from witnesses that would indicate that the girl, though drunk, knew what she was doing.
The case has divided the community amid allegations that more students should have been charged and led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of a pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
Steubenville High School football players Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond both maintain their innocence. In his opening statement, Mays' attorney, Brian Duncan, said his 17-year-old client "did not rape the young lady in question." Richmond's attorney gave no opening statement.
Both teens are charged with digitally penetrating the West Virginia girl, first in the back seat of a moving car after a party Aug. 11 and then in the basement of a house. Mays is also charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
In an excerpt of a videotaped interview with ABC's "20/20" that was posted Tuesday, Richmond said the photo was a joke. He contends the girl was awake and was a willing participant, according to the report.
The girl's level of inebriation quickly emerged as a key issue Wednesday.
Following opening statements, prosecutors presented two witnesses, 17-year-old girls who saw the girl the night of the party.