Testimony has yet to begin Wednesday in the case of two Steubenville, Ohio, high school football stars accused of raping a 16-year-old girl in August.
Defense attorneys for accused football players Ma'lik Richmond, 16, and Trenton Mays, 17 withdrew motions to dismiss the case against their clients Wednesday morning. Both attorneys are meeting behind closed doors with Judge Thomas Lipps.
The trial is expected to begin sometime Wednesday afternoon. Friends and family of the defendants are inside the courtroom, which has limited seating, and about 30 journalists are packed into a small overflow courtroom beside the courtroom watching the proceedings on a closed-circuit television.
Richmond and Mays are charged with raping an intoxicated, semi-conscious 16-year-old girl at parties attended by dozens of drunk teens. Prosecutors say the boys carried the Weirton, W. Va. girl from party to party while onlookers shot photos and video and posted crude social media comments online.
Richmond and Mays deny involvement. The Tribune-Review does not identify sexual assault victims.
Security was tight at the Jefferson County Justice Center and Jail on Wednesday morning as reporters and spectators gathered outside as early as 7:15 a.m.
About 40 people are expected to testify. Authorities said the trial could stretch into the weekend.
The case sparked outrage and drew international attention in the fall after an online "hacktivist" group, called Anonymous, published incendiary evidence online, including a photo of the suspects carrying the girl by her ankles and wrists. Cleveland-based crime blogger, Alexandria Goddard, 45, added fuel when she posted and wrote about a 12-minute video from that night in which Michael Nodianos, 18, a former high school baseball player at Steubenville High, joked about the rape while others laughed off-camera.
Nodianos is expected to testify, authorities said.
Goddard, who said she used to live in Steubenville, and others have accused city officials of participating in a cover-up, saying authorities were reluctant to properly investigate the case because it involved members of the town's beloved "Big Red" football team. Officials deny that.
Still, activists called for charges against party-goers who knew about the abuse, but did nothing to stop it. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Monday he will decide whether to charge more people after the trial for Mays and Richmond concludes.
Lipps, a retired Hamilton County Juvenile Court judge, is presiding over the case. He was called in after Jefferson County judge and prosecuting attorney withdrew from the case because of ties to the football program.
Protesters also gathered outside the Justice Center.
On Wednesday, as well as at three previous rallies in Steubenville, many protesters wore Guy Fawkes masks, the symbol of Anonymous. Fawkes was a 17th century Englishman who tried to blow up the House of Lords in London in 1605. The mask became a popular disguise for protesters after it was featured in the 2006 film "V for Vendetta," in which the main character tries to overthrow the government.
Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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