COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A judge was ready to classify as sex offenders two Ohio high school football players convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl last year after an alcohol-fueled house party.
The hearing Friday scheduled by Judge Thomas Lipps at Jefferson County Juvenile Court in Steubenville is a possible first step for the two teens to be transferred from a state juvenile detention center to a facility that works with sex offenders.
The options before Lipps include the least restrictive classification, requiring annual reporting for 10 years, to the most restrictive: every 90 days for life.
Unlike adult sex offenders, however, the teens' names won't be included on publicly accessible websites. And the teens can request to have the sex offender classification removed later based on their history of rehabilitation.
Lipps sentenced Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, to time in the juvenile detention system in March. He convicted them of raping the West Virginia girl after an August party celebrating a successful football team scrimmage. Richmond was sentenced to at least one year for raping the girl, while Mays was sentenced to at least two for raping her and taking a picture of the underage girl naked.
The case received international attention because of the role of texting and social media in exposing the attack. A grand jury is considering whether other people broke the law in connection with the case by not alerting authorities to initial reports of the rape.
At the time of their conviction and sentencing in March, Lipps recommended the boys be assigned to Lighthouse Youth Center-Paint Creek in Chillicothe, a facility he said has a strong program for treating juvenile sex offenders.
The privately-operated center is an open campus where staff members rely on their relationship with residents to prevent escapes, according to the Department of Youth Services.
Staff and children live together at the facility, which has shown success in keeping teens treated there from committing new crimes.
Both Paint Creek and state officials conduct face-to-face meetings with young people and review their records in state facilities whenever determining placement, said Youth Services spokeswoman Kim Parsell, adding that all state juvenile facilities "are able to meet the unique needs of youth." She has declined to comment specifically on the hearing or Mays' and Richmond's case.
Mays welcomed the chance for the transfer, his lawyer said.
"Our client looks forward to the opportunity to attend the Paint Creek program, follow all the facility rules, and display to the Court and the community that he has been rehabilitated fully in hopes of returning to his family," Columbus attorney Brian Duncan said in a statement.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus