The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

June 15, 2013

Steubenville football player classified as sex offender

COLUMBUS — A high school football player convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party last summer was given the state’s second-toughest sex offender classification at a Friday hearing.

The decision by Judge Thomas Lipps at Jefferson County Juvenile Court in Steubenville means Trent Mays could have to report to a local sheriff every six months for 20 years.

Unlike adult sex offenders, however, Mays’ name won’t be included on publicly accessible websites. And he can request to have the sex offender classification removed later based on his history of rehabilitation.

Lipps also agreed Friday with a request from Mays’ attorneys that the teen be transferred from Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility near Cleveland to a southern Ohio facility that works with sex offenders.

One of Mays’ attorneys said after the hearing he will ask Lipps to release Mays from state custody if he successfully completes the program at Lighthouse Youth Center-Paint Creek in Chillicothe.

That would be a departure from the two-year sentence that Lipps handed Mays in March when he convicted the teen of raping the West Virginia girl. Mays, 17, also was convicted of using his phone to take a photo of the naked underage girl.

“The whole purpose of the juvenile system is rehabilitation,” Columbus defense attorney Adam Nemann said Friday. “If he’s in compliance and does everything he’s asked to do, as a juvenile he ought to be returned to his family and attempt to piece his life back together.”

Mays has been a model inmate at Cuyahoga Hills, Nemann said.

A lawyer for the girl and her family called the classification level “a fair resolution.”

The 20-year reporting requirement sends “a pretty powerful message about how severe the crime was,” said Wheeling, W.Va., attorney Bob Fitzsimmons. He wouldn’t comment on the possibility of an early release request for Mays.

Lipps had been scheduled to hold hearings for both of the two players he convicted of rape in March. He canceled the hearing for defendant Ma’Lik Richmond after the teen’s lawyer filed motions ahead of Friday’s court appearance.

Richmond’s attorney, Walter Madison, declined to comment Friday on the nature of the motions, which were sealed.

Richmond was sentenced to at least one year for raping the girl.

The case drew international attention because of the role of texting and social media in exposing the attack and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the celebrated Steubenville High School football team. A grand jury is considering whether other people broke the law in connection with the case by not alerting authorities to initial reports of the rape.

That panel was expected to meet Monday but will not convene as scheduled, Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, said Friday.

At the time of their conviction and sentencing in March, Lipps recommended the boys be assigned to the Paint Creek facility, which he said has a strong program for treating juvenile sex offenders.

The privately-operated center is an open campus where staff members rely on their relationship with residents to prevent escapes, according to the Department of Youth Services.

Staff and children live together at the facility, which has shown success in keeping teens treated there from committing new crimes.

Youth Services and Paint Creek still have to agree to take Mays, DYS spokeswoman Kim Parsell said Friday.

Both Paint Creek and state officials conduct face-to-face meetings with young people and review their records in state facilities whenever determining placement.

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