Steubenville, Ohio, high schooler convicted of rape returns to football team

By Kim Palmer
City schools were locked down temporarily after a threat which police determined to be "non-viable", in Steubenville, Ohio, January 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jason Cohn

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A high school football player who served 10 months of a one-year sentence for raping a 16-year-old girl in 2012 has returned to school and its football team, according to the Steubenville High School website.

The teen was one of two convicted in the sexual assault case, which drew national attention to Steubenville, Ohio, about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh, after the hacker group Anonymous demanded justice after images of the assault were circulated online.

Ma'lik Richmond, 18 and now a senior, was sentenced to one year at the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in March last year and released in January 2014. He will have to register as a sex offender for 20 years.

Richmond's co-defendant, Trent Mays, was convicted of rape and child pornography for using his phone to take a picture of the rape victim naked. He was sentenced to two years and remains in detention.

Prosecutors said the two members of the Big Red football team assaulted the victim as she lay naked on a basement floor, too drunk to move or speak.

"If his detention sentence had been longer, it would have kept him from participating, or if the school would have a policy against allowing a convicted sex offender from participating, that would also keep him from being a part of the team this fall," Tim Stried, spokesman for the Ohio High School Athletic Association, said on Tuesday.

The OHSAA bylaws allow school authorities to decide if a student can participate if he is otherwise eligible. The bylaws cannot be changed without a referendum of the membership, Stried said.

In the aftermath of the conviction, a special grand jury was called to look into whether school authorities had obstructed justice in the case, attempting to cover it up to protect the championship football team.

The grand jury indicted five adults for failing to report the crime and other charges. In two of those cases, charges were dropped after the people did community service. The others have pleaded not guilty and are pending trial.

(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Dan Grebler)