Ohio sheriff confronts protesters in football rape case

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio Sat Jan 5, 2013 5:01pm EST

1 of 2. Protesters gathered in front of the of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, January 5, 2013. A county sheriff under fire for how he has handled a high school rape investigation faced down a raucous crowd of protesters on Saturday, telling critics no further suspects would be charged in a case that has rattled Ohio football country.

Credit: Reuters/Drew Singer

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STEUBENVILLE, Ohio (Reuters) - A county sheriff under fire for how he has handled a high school rape investigation faced down a raucous crowd of protesters on Saturday and said no further suspects would be charged in a case that has rattled Ohio football country.

Ma'lik Richmond and Trenton Mays, both 16 and members of the Steubenville High School football team, are charged with raping a 16-year-old fellow student at a party last August, according to statements from their attorneys.

Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, accused of shielding the popular football program from a more rigorous investigation, told reporters no one else would be charged in the case, just moments after he addressed about 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse.

"I'm not going to stand here and try to convince you that I'm not the bad guy," he said to a chorus of boos. "You've already made your minds up."

The "Occupy Steubenville" rally was organized by the online activist group Anonymous.

Abdalla declined to take the investigation over from Steubenville police, sparking more public outrage. Anonymous and community leaders say police are avoiding charging more of those involved to protect the school's beloved football program.

The two students will be tried as juveniles in February in Steubenville, a close-knit city of 19,000 about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh.

The case shot to national prominence this week when Anonymous made public a picture of the purported rape victim being carried by her wrists and ankles by two young men. Anonymous also released a video that showed several other young men joking about an assault.

Abdalla, who said he first saw the video three days ago, said on Saturday that it provided no new evidence of any crimes.

"It's a disgusting video," he said. "It's stupidity. But you can't arrest somebody for being stupid."

The protest's masked leader, standing atop a set of stairs outside the courthouse doors, invited up to the makeshift stage anyone who was a victim of sexual assault. Protesters immediately flooded the platform, which was slightly smaller than a boxing ring.

Victims passed around a microphone, taking turns telling their stories. Some called for Abdalla and other local officials to step down from office for not charging more of the people and for what they called a cover-up by athletes, coaches and local officials.

Abdalla then climbed the stairs himself and addressed the protest over a microphone.

Abdalla said he had dedicated his 28-year career to combating sexual assault, overseeing the arrest of more than 200 suspects.

Clad in a teal ribbon symbolizing support for sexual assault victims, Abdalla later told Reuters that he stood by his decision to leave the investigation with local police. He would have had to question all 59 people that the Steubenville Police Department had already interviewed in its original investigation, he said.

"People have got their minds made up," he said. "A case like this, who would want to cover any of it up?"

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (8)
americanguy wrote:
Was he sheriff in Florida when Travon Martin was murdered?
Sure sounds like the same guy to me.

Jan 05, 2013 7:19pm EST  --  Report as abuse
It is amazing how the government will let off animals. Every single male who raped her should be incarcerated. Anyone else who was there and cheered it on, should be arrested for aiding and abetting a rape, Anyone who was there and did nothing such as call police or provide as a witness should be charged with failure to render aid and possibly obstruction of justice. Anyone who filmed the rape or took photos should be brought up on child pornography charges as well.

This is really no different that the shooting rampages or other similar gang rape, assaults and crimes of violence done by teens. The society has created conditions where these kids grow up believing they can rape, assault, steal or kill than these are valid options. These animals should be jailed and punished relative to their participation in the crime and the leftist socialist on the politically democrat side and the religious right need to be taken out of the picture. Both have created laws, beliefs, political correctness and other failures that allow a kid to grow up believing he can do these crimes if he feels like it. At the end of the day it is not government or god who is responsible for a person, it is the person who is individually free and responsible for their own lives and actions. Until we start to treat everyone as free individuals and hold them accountable for their actions, we will never fix this problem.

Jan 05, 2013 7:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
itneverfails wrote:
If these kids did do this someone better do something besides cover it up for a sports team reputation or its just going to happen again.
Bully’s don’t change they just get older and more vicious. We need to look at the reason why some of our children in this country are killing their fellow students; this type of behavior by adults who should be protecting ALL of their charges, not just the ones they like or who are easy on the eyes or are great at sports, but the ones who need our protection….the ones who never ask. May God protect this young woman and may here parent(s) move to a new town or state for that matter…let her start over.

Jan 05, 2013 11:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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