*In August of 2012 a group of unsupervised teenagers committed crimes that, taken at face value, some initially speculated amounted to little more than “boys being boys”, but upon closer inspection we see this case stinks of criminal callousness, corruption and carelessness for and that stench is upon all involved.
The case was thrust into the international spot light not necessarily because the details surrounding it were anymore or less troubling than any other rape case, but because of the overwhelming level of arrogance displayed by the perpetrators, which was likely fueled by testosterone-enhanced, alcohol-induced stupidity the likes of which should not go unpunished. Though many complain young Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, 17 and 16 at the time of the crime, were convicted via the Internet I must say I feel they have gotten their justice for their involvement. But I what cost to the integrity of our judicial system?
Several things stood out to me regarding the facts surrounding the case. The first thing that struck me was the tremendous amount of irresponsible behavior displayed by all parties involved, and I mean all parties. The owners of the respective homes at which the boys paraded and abused the victim, whoever purchased alcohol for the minors, and the boys themselves.
The town of Steubenville, Ohio, while blameless in a practical sense, is a small town high school football town where these young men were once considered something of local celebrities. The first phase of the party took place at the home of a volunteer high school coach and included over 50 people, according to the New York Times. The amount of peer pressure Trent Mays wielded as the quarterback of the football team cannot be overstated. Though the entire affair is tragic on its own lurid merits, the blind allegiance displayed by Ma’lik Richmond, and the other teenage party-goers is all the more mind-numbing for some.
“The thing I found most disturbing about this is that there were other people around when this was going on,” William McCafferty, the Steubenville police chief, said of the events that unfolded. “Nobody had the morals to say, ‘Hey, stop it, that isn’t right.’
“If you could charge people for not being decent human beings, a lot of people could have been charged that night.”
The events of the evening, as documented at the trial, display a clear pattern of a jock-mob mentality with members of the Steubenville High football and baseball teams at its core. Where were her friends? That’s the question I keep asking myself. Never mind the under aged drinking and drug use, never mind an unchaperoned mob of drunken children, who did she think would have her back?
Who was supposed to have her back? Absolutely no one it appears. Published reports state that the young lady lived across the river in West Virginia and attended a religion-based high school there. She told her parents she was going to sleepover at a friend’s house. Where the hell was this friend? Did the friend ever really exist? I am not certain of her standing or hierarchy amongst her peers, but it is an added tragedy that none of her female counterparts ever saw fit to step in at any point during this six-hour nightmare.
While it has literally been decades since I have found myself in similar party situations, I do recall them well and I have never seen or heard of such poor parental oversight. Yes, I have been at unchaperoned parties as a high school kid as well, but there was always a fearful voice of reasoning heard from somewhere within the masses whenever things started to get out of hand. That voice normally would come from the person throwing the party or affiliated with the party. Every party thrower knows, if a problem goes down at your party it immediately becomes their problem too. Where were the fearful, reasonable voices? Where were those who were afraid their parents would find out? Or, God forbid, their coach?
The lack of fear displayed by any of the players involved lends us a clue as to the absolute impunity by which these young men were allowed to do things, both in school and at home. Upon watching the verdict for their verdict being read, I initially felt a pinch of sympathy for Richmond as he burst into tears upon hearing his sentence of one year in prison with the possibility of having to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. But I caught myself, and that sympathy quickly turned sour as I realized how lucky Ma’lik is. Yes, I said lucky. According to court documents, Richmond is alleged to have violated the victim over two hours into the ordeal. The following is a timeline posted by NYT.
•The girl began drinking early on.
•By 10 or 10:30 that night she was stumbling and slurring her words
•People at the party taunted her, chanted and cheered as a Steubenville High baseball player dared bystanders to urinate on her
•Two hours later, the girl left the party with several Big Red football players, including Mays and Richmond
•She was carried out of the house by Mays and Richmond while she “was sleeping.”
•They headed to the home of one football player who has now become a witness for the prosecution
•In the back seat of a Volkswagen Jetta, Mays proceeded to flash the girl’s breasts and penetrate her with his fingers, while another player videotaped it on his phone
•At a third party, the girl could not walk on her own and vomited several times before toppling onto her side
•At one point, the girl was on the ground, naked, unmoving and silent
•Richmond was behind her, with his hands between her legs, penetrating her with his fingers
•The next morning the girl awoke with no recollection of what happened, but photographs of the incident were already circulating twitter and via text messages.
Another football player, whose home was the site of the third party location, says he tried to tell Richmond he should stop but Mays’ egged him on saying “It’s all right. Don’t worry.”
Richmond, who authorities say comes from a disadvantaged background and has been living with guardians since he was eight years old, is described as not only being a good football player but a star basketball and track athlete as well. The reason I say he is lucky is because stupidity of this magnitude would likely result in greater legal punishment in other parts of the country (especially if he had no white co-defendant) or a death sentence in other parts of the world. As if doing it wasn’t bad enough, allowing yourself to be taped is ridiculous. What part of ignorant led him to believe there would be no repercussions?
His cluelessness regarding how some in society may view him (a young black man), and others of his ilk (from a troubled childhood), is mind-numbing. The word of a young black boy against that of a drunken white girl who claims she was sexually violated by the former? That scenario has jail sentence written all over it, athlete or not.
The addition of video as evidence is all the more incriminating. As any parent can attest, people of a certain age lack the life experience to know when a dumb idea is potentially the worst idea of their lives, no matter their level of logistical intelligence. A prime example of why children should not be allowed to drink alcohol. It’s akin to pouring dumb gas onto a firestorm of stupidity. An explosion of calamitous proportions is likely to occur.
Travis Mays’ behavior regarding the entire case is typical of young athletes across the nation, and perhaps across the globe. Many top athletes are coddled by their handlers from a very young age. They are either told directly that they can do no wrong, or shown that the consequences of their wrong-doings (either scholastic or otherwise) are normally considerably less than they would be for others.
As the starting high school quarterback, and blue chip wrestler as well, Mays’ appears to have been emboldened by the drunken and drugged environment in which the incidents are alleged to have happened, and felt the victim was from another school and from another town thus was defenseless. No matter what reason is given, the bottom line reality remains the same.
Travis Mays showed little regard for the life, dignity or well-being of the victim, and videotaped his arrogant, callous behavior for prosecutors and law enforcement to see. If the social media aspect surrounding this case had not been as it is the verdict may have been different, the case likely to have been drawn out for months, if not years longer. However, idiots being idiots, Mays and other former Steubenville high school athletes did Knightsec and prosecutors a favor by posting video and pictures to social media like a twisted diary of conquest.
Regarding Knightsec releasing digital evidence of the heinous crime, it initially raised an eyebrow for me. The idea of someone anonymously pointing fingers from the shadows of the Internet regarding small town judicial matters really rubs me the wrong way. Though they claim to be fighting corruption, and many of the documents released by Anonymous, Knightsec and other affiliated groups are generally released toward that end, the means by which the information is compiled is often illegal. They released the personal records of 50,000 Ohio residents in conducting thier “investigation” on corruption in the criminal justice system of the small Ohio Valley town.
Also, who is to stop any of these organizations or their members from recklessly using their considerable resources to settle scores and grind axes maliciously or for profit? Whose to say they haven’t already done so? Through the raucous applauds celebrating the actions of Knightsec, and of Anonymous for organizing a rally protesting Stuebenville on December 29th, I give a cautious nod of respect.
While I am no fan of the United States criminal justice system, the potential for such groups to further erode the public’s confidence in the effectiveness of that and other “pillar” institutions, for better or worse, is great. Anonymous and the like have the potential to hold anyone accountable for anything, at anytime, guilty or not. I read on a blog post where someone said groups like these are the closest thing we have to superheroes. I thought for a moment and wanted to type “Yeah, the Punisher would do something like that”, but didn’t. All and all, I need to start seeing them help a few brothers out before I’m all donning a derby and wearing a mask.
What can one say to sum up a human being treated like a thing? The manner in which CNN covered the case was almost comically sad and from a super liberal perspective, playing it up almost as if the boys were the victims. Is CNN so ideologically inflexible as to not have been able to change lanes here? Yes, there are many men out there, most of them black, who are languishing in prison for crimes they did not commit. Travis Mays and Ma’lik Richmond will not be counted among them.
No one deserved to be treated that way. As I typed, a voice just kept throbbing in my head screaming “What if it was your daughter?” The very idea is alien to every fiber of normalcy that I have ever known. The enablers of this affair, who I have not mentioned because they have not been charged or convicted of any crimes as of yet, are just as guilty in my eyes. Other student athletes, coaches, parents, should all face some sort of legal action. None of this would have occurred with out the knowledge of adults. None of it! With no adults there is no alcohol, no place to party and I’m sure no vehicles to drive around in the case of some of the teens. Each and every enabling adult should be held accountable. Then, and only then, do I feel justice will truly have been served.