CNN criticized for Steubenville verdict coverage

Ma’lik Richmond cries in juvenile court. (AP/Pool)

CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape verdict involving a pair of high-school football players is being criticized for its focus on the rapists rather than the 16-year-old victim.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow said live outside the juvenile court in Steubenville. “It was incredibly emotional—incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.”

CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow

Harlow continued:

One of the young men, Ma’lik Richmond, when that sentence came down, he collapsed. He collapsed in the arms of his attorney, Walter Madison. He said to me, “My life is over. No one is going to want me now.” Very serious crime here. Both found guilty of raping this 16-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August, alcohol-fueled parties. Alcohol is a huge part in this.

[Related: The reaction to the #Steubenville verdict on Twitter]

Both Richmond and Trent Mays, the other defendant, stood up and apologized to the victim and her family. Harlow described the scene to Candy Crowley.

“I was sitting about three feet from Ma’lik when he gave that statement. It was very difficult to watch,” Harlow said. “This was an incredibly emotional day. These two juveniles being carried out and they will be committed today, Candy.”

By | The Lookout

Crowley then discussed the case with CNN legal contributor Paul Callan.

“You know, Paul, a 16 year old now just sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, still sound like 16 year olds,” Crowley said. “The thing is, when you listen to it and you realize that they could stay until they’re 21, they are going to get credit for time served. What’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?”

Callan’s answer:

The most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law and, by the way, the laws in most other states now require such a designation in the face of such a serious crime. That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

“One way to report on the outcome of a rape trial is to discuss the legal ramifications of the decision or the effect the proceedings may have on the life of the victim,” Gawker’s Mallory Ortberg wrote. “Another angle reporters can take is to publicly worry about the ‘promising future’ of the convicted rapists, now less promising as a direct result of their choice to rape someone. Reporters at CNN today chose the latter technique.”

Harlow faced some of the sharpest criticism.


  • Judge ruled today that Trent Mays, 16, and Ma’lik Richmond, 17, both students at Steubenville High School, are guilty of raping girl, 16, at alcohol-fueled party last summer
  • Will serve out yearlong-sentences at juvenile detention center, and could serve time until they turn 21

By Laura Collins In Steubenville, Ohio
Daily Mail

The Ohio football stars charged with raping a 16-year-old girl in a night of degradation and humiliation have been found guilty.

In emotional courtroom scenes, both defendants Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, wept uncontrollably as Judge Thomas Lipps handed down his verdict, describing their actions as ‘profane and ugly.’

As Mays and Richmond were comforted by their attorneys and their families sobbed, prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter pressed for a stern sentencing reminding the judge: ‘They showed absolutely no regard for what happened to the victim.

Scroll down for video

 Read more and watch video:
Reaction: Ma’lik Richmond, right, openly weeps after learning the verdict in his trial at the juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio today; he was sentenced to at least one year at a juvenile detention center
Together: Trent Mays, 17, left, gets a hug from his father after Trent and co-defendant Ma’lik Richmond, 16, were found delinquent on rape and other chargesk
Defense attorney Walter Madison (R) comforts Ma'lik Richmond (L) as Richmond reacts to the verdict

Emotions: On the left, Defense attorney Walter Madison, right comforts Ma’lik Richmond, left; right, Mays enters the courtroom ahead of the judge’s decision

‘In the case of Mays once the information got out, there was a very conscious decision to turn it on her.

‘The lack of remorse was appalling’

Today, as both Steubenville High School students faced the reality of the consequences of what happened that August night last year, their remorse appeared overwhelming.

Both have been sentence to a minimum of one year in a juvenile detention institution with the maximum stay of until they are 21.

Judge Thomas Lipps talks from the bench to the families of Trent Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond after he pronounced them delinquent on rape and other charges after their trial in juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio.
Judge Thomas Lipps talks from the bench to the families of Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond after he pronounced them delinquent on rape and other charges after their trial in juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio
Family members console each other as Judge Thomas Lipps (not shown) delivers the verdicts in the trial of Ma'lik Richmond, 16 and Trent Mays, 17, in juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio, March 17, 2013.
Family members console each other as Judge Thomas Lipps (not shown) delivers the verdicts in the trial of Ma’lik Richmond, 16 and Trent Mays, 17, in juvenile court in Steubenville, Ohio, March 17, 2013
Family ties: Ma’lik Richmond, center, stands with his father, Nathaniel Richmond, left, and attorney Walter Madison after he and co-defendant Trent Mays, 17, were found delinquent

Mays faced an additional charge of the use and dissemination of nude images of a minor. He received the same sentence for that to run consecutively.

His minimum detention is two years.

His actions were, according to Judge Lipps, ‘more egregious’ making it inappropriate that he should face the same sentence as Richmond.

Guilty: Ma’lik Richmond, top, hugs his mother Daphne Birden, after closing arguments were made on the fourth day of the juvenile trial on Saturday
MaysMa'lik Richmond
Trent Mays

Court proceedings: Ma’lik Richmond, 16, (left) and Trent Mays, 17, (right) in court on Saturday; both were found guilty today of raping a teenage girl last summer

caused nationwide.
Trial by social media: The messages over Twitter, Instagram and text that were exchanged that night and the next day have become central to the case – and to the outrage it has caused nationwide
Verdict: Two protestors hug outside the Jefferson County Justice Center after hearing the verdict in the trial

Richmond’s father, Nathaniel, who has been present in court every day made his way over to his son, fell to his knees and told him that he loved him.

‘My life is ruined,’ Richmond told attorney his Walter Madison, who was clearly shocked at the verdict.

Mays father, Bryan, held his head in his hands as the defendant’s sister Rhiannan and mother wept.

Both defendants took the opportunity to address the victim and her family – present for the verdict and visible to the defendants but out of view of the main court in a screened off section of seating.


Mays was composed as he said: ‘I would like to apologize to [the victim] and her family, my family and the community. No pictures should have been sent let alone ever taken.’

But though Mays apologized quite specifically for taking pictures of the victim and sending them nowhere did he mention or offer an apology for the rape.

In every communication with the victim following the night of 11 -12 August he repeatedly denied raping her.

In fact in an incriminating detail it is an allegation he denies before it is ever made. Again and again his texts show him turning the blame on the victim, hectoring her, pressurizing her not to go to the police and telling her that the rape ‘didn’t happen.’

Standing in court, convicted of that crime and filled with apparent regret, the rape remained a crime for which he does not apologize.

In court: Trent Mays, 17, talks with one of his defence lawyers, Brian Duncan .
In court: Trent Mays, 17, talks with one of his defense lawyers, Brian Duncan yesterdayID
‘We ruined her life’ US Football players guilty of rape

When it came to Richmond’s turn, he walked towards the victim and her family, across the courtroom, weeping;‘I would like to apologize. I had no intention to put you guys through this. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.

‘I ruined her life.’

At this, he could no longer speak because he was overcome with tears, and was walked back to this seat by Fred Abdalla Jr, Chief Probation Officer for Jefferson County Juvenile Court.

Apologies followed from Bryan Mays, Greg Aggresta – Richmond’s guardian who, along with his wife Jennifer have been in court every day. The Aggresta’s have spoken openly about their support for Richmond and love for him ‘whatever happened.’

Today in court they appeared emotionally shattered. Richmond was not in their care when the events took place.


The Ohio rape convictions do not mark the end of the scandal that has gripped the small town of Steubenville and America at large.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, right, answers questions about the successful prosecution of two juveniles

Ohio State Attorney General Mike DeWine has revealed that a Grand Jury will be called on April 15 with as many as 16 other youths facing possible charges.

Speaking just moments after Judge Thomas Lipps handed down his verdict, Ohio State Attorney Mike DeWine has revealed: ‘We’ve gone a long way in this investigation and we’re almost there. The grand jury will finish up that investigation.’

He said that there were 16 people of interest who had so far refused to co-operate with the investigation.

The Grand Jury will seek to resolve this and while he acknowledged it is more commonly concerned with criminal cases in the adult court he said it also served as ‘an investigating tool’ in matters relating to Juvenile Court.

The three key prosecution witnesses – all of whom admitted being present and participating in the events of August 11-12 – were all granted immunity on condition of their testimony.

Many campaigning groups have heavily criticized the controversial decision but it was a decision that the victim’s family understood as solicitor Mr Bob Fitzsimmons explained:

‘You had three boys, eye witnesses to what happened. They [Attorney General’s office} had to make a difficult decision to grant three people we all think were probably criminally liable immunity.

‘Their conduct was reprehensible and despicable but sometimes you have to make deals.’

All three could still face charges outside the State of Ohio if they are found to have sent nude images of a minor across county lines.

The victim herself is from Weirton, barely three miles from Steubenville but across state lines and in West Virginia.

Summing up: Judge Thomas Lipps listens to prosecuting attorney Marianne Hemmeter give a closing argument on the fourth day of the rape trial.
Summing up: Judge Thomas Lipps listens to prosecuting attorney Marianne Hemmeter give a closing argument Saturday; he declared the defendants guilty today

Mr Madison said: ‘To some extent they blame themselves.’

It would be hard to understate the intensity of the courtroom scenes as all three young people – defendants and victim – and their families took in the devastation this case has wrought on their lives.

This was not a time of jubilation on the victim’s family’s part – they declined the opportunity to address the court.

This was a time for the defendants to absorb the fact that this finding will be, as Mr Madison put it, ‘an escort for the rest of their lives.’

Across days of often appalling testimony the court has heard texts, tweets and emails between the defendants and their friends.

Small town.
Small town: Both defendants played football for Steubenville High School’s team Big Red

They have heard about pictures, been reminded of vile video rants and seen the reality of what these boys did and how they behaved, who they were, when nobody else was looking.

The case has scandalized America and scarred the small town of Steubenville, Ohio.

Mays and Richmond will begin their sentence today. They will be taken to an institute just northwest of Columbus, Ohio where they will be assessed and a decision made as to where they should spend their time in custody.

‘So much of what happens with their future depends upon their attitude and how they embrace their rehabilitation,’ said Judge Lipps.

‘There is plenty of room to demonstrate your good character. There is also plenty of room to make mistakes.’

On the map: The working class town of Steubenville, located in eastern Ohio, has a population of around 18,000
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