The Poor Town Where Two Football Stars Thought They Could Get Away With Rape

Steubenville high school Harding Stadium

Steubenville, Ohio may finally slink out of the spotlight, after two of the town’s high school football players were convicted of raping a 16-year-old with their fingers.

Photo: Photo: Reuters/Jason Cohn

Trenton Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were adjucated delinquent and could be in a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21.

The rape case drew national attention in the US after the accused and their friends joked about the incident and showed a galling sense of impunity over social media. At one point Mays told a friend that coach Reno Saccoccia would make the charges go away.

In January Steubenville was forced to launch a website to combat the perception that “the football team runs this city.”

That’s the kind of mindset that develops in a depressed Appalachian town where Big Red Football is the hottest thing in town.

Steubenville, Ohio has steadily shrunk from 37,651 people in 1940 to 18,440 people in 2011.

The decline of the local steel industry has seen unemployment rise and incomes fall.

In this depressed town, one bright spot is the excellent Steubenville High School Big Red football team.

The Big Red went undefeated in 2005 and 2006 to win back-to-back Div-III state championships.

Coach Reno Saccoccia is a town icon, after more than 30 years with the team.

More than half of the town's population comes out for every home game at Harding Stadium.

In August 2012, star players Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond were indicted for rape of a minor.

Alleged pictures and tweets about the abuse, which took place at multiple parties over the course of a night, provided a shocking record of the incident.

Protesters at Occupy Steubenville and elsewhere said that more people should have been charged in the incident and accused the school and town of a cover-up.

The spotlight on the town got hotter and hotter, with coverage in the New York Times and elsewhere.

Hacktivist groups Anonymous and Local Leak got involved by posting intimate details about the major players in the case and hacking the email accounts of city law enforcement officials.

Anonymous and Local Leaks also targeted Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, who spoke out against the groups after they accused him of deleting evidence of the alleged rape from students' phones.

City manager Cathy Davison has pushed back against the negative press and rumours circulated by Anonymous and other groups by starting Steubenville Facts, a website dedicated to publicizing only the facts of the case.

There were even threats, as Steubenville High School was locked down in January after shooting threats were made over social media.

Despite the investigation, Mays and Richmond kept playing football for most of the season. Saccoccia reportedly told the principal and school superintendent that the players told him they did not think they had done anything wrong.

Mays and Richmond played for all but the last two games of the regular season, helping the Big Red to a 8-2 record.

Judge Thomas Lipps convicted both of the accused of raping a minor. Mays and Richmond may be in juvenile detention until they turn 21.

What's the future for Steubenville? It may be brighter than you think

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