Outsiders, and some community leaders, lamented the absence of parental guidance and questioned why 16- and 17-year-olds were allowed to drift from one booze-filled party to another throughout the night of Aug. 11 until the next morning.
Without social media, the case might never have come to court. The girl, who said she did not remember what had happened, learned about it after becoming aware of online chatter and pictures. She and her parents went to police on Aug. 14, and Mays and Richmond were arrested eight days later.
The verdict followed days of graphic testimony and eyewitness recollections portraying a night of high school parties that turned ugly, for the girl at the center of the case and eventually for the boys who chronicled the events via text messages, pictures and videos and who later tried, futilely, to erase the communications.
Those online exchanges were key to the prosecution and revealed an indifferent attitude toward the girl as she became so intoxicated that she could barely speak or walk. She vomited repeatedly, once while sitting half-naked in the middle of the street, several witnesses said.
The text messages also raised questions about whether the coach of the Steubenville High School football team, Reno Saccoccia, tried to quash the accusations to protect his players. Joann Gibb, an agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation who was responsible for examining students’ cellphones and retrieving data from them, testified that Mays texted a friend and told him the coach “took care of it.” “Like he was joking about it so I’m not worried,” Mays added.
Other messages Mays sent from his phone and read in court by police indicated an attempt to craft a story of what had occurred as pictures, tweets, and videos from the night circulated online and allegations of wrongdoing percolated.