STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – A judge granted two teenagers immunity from prosecution Friday before they agreed to testify about the alleged sexual assault of a drunken 16-year-old girl after a party in eastern Ohio last summer.
Both Mark Cole and Evan Westlake invoked their Fifth Amendment right against testifying for fear of self-incrimination as the trial in Steubenville entered its third day. Testimony from Cole, Westlake and a third boy are a crucial part of the state’s evidence because the West Virginia girl says she doesn’t remember what happened.
Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, are charged with digitally penetrating the girl early in the morning of Aug. 12, first in a car and then in the basement of a house. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material. The two maintain their innocence.
Cole testified Friday that he took a video of Mays and the girl in the car, then deleted it. Westlake testified he saw Richmond’s encounter with the girl in the basement. The third boy, who has yet to testify, said at a hearing last fall that he took a photo of the alleged basement attack that he also deleted.
The case has riveted the small city of Steubenville amid allegations that more students should have been charged and led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of a pride in a community that has suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail until they turn 21.
Cole, 17, testified that he filmed Mays digitally penetrate the girl in the car. A prosecutor asked him why he then deleted the video later that morning.
It was one of those moments when you realize you did something stupid and wrong that night, so I deleted it, Cole replied.
Cole testified he saw Mays unsuccessfully try to have the girl perform oral sex on him later in the basement of Cole’s house. Cole also testified that the alleged victim was intoxicated and slurring her words.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Walter Madison suggested that the alleged victim was behaving no differently from anyone else the night of the party.
Madison, who represents Richmond, suggested that Cole was remembering events differently because so much attention was now being paid to what happened. Cole agreed with Madison’s suggestions.