Steubenville rape victim ‘weathering the storm’

WHEELING, W.Va. — A Wheeling attorney says the West Virginia teenager at the center of the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case is trying to move forward more than a year after the assault.

That 16-year-old girl is from Weirton and Bob Fitzsimmons has been representing her and her family members.

“She’s continued in school. She’s an honor roll student. She was elected to the homecoming court. She’s making application to go to college,” Fitzsimmons MetroNews “Talkline” on Wednesday. “Her family has weathered the storm as best as anyone can. They’re very strong, very united.

“For her to weather this is really an example to, I think, all women in the country that you do need to step up (and report sexual assaults).”

In March, Ma’Lik Richmond and Trent Mays, both Steubenville High School football players, were convicted of sexually assaulting the intoxicated and unresponsive girl during a party in August 2012.

They were charged and convicted as juveniles in a case that brought national attention to Steubenville after images of the abuse were shared via social media.

“It was these boys and their friends that actually posted things on social networks that lead to the ultimate conviction. Remember, this young girl that was raped, she was unconscious and didn’t know what happened or who did what,” said Fitzsimmons.

Last week, after meeting 18 times and hearing from more than 100 witnesses, an Ohio Grand Jury indicted four school officials, including Steubenville schools superintendent Mike McVey, on charges that included obstructing justice, impeding the investigation into the assault and failing to report the crime.

Newsweek has reported several of the charges in those indictments are connected to a separate alleged sexual assault that happened in April 2012 involving several Steubenville High athletes and a 14-year old girl.

Fitzsimmons confirmed he is representing that girl, who he said is not from West Virginia, and her family members, but offered few other details about the case citing the ongoing investigation.

At the time of last week’s indictments, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said, unless there is new evidence, the indictments will bring the Steubenville rape investigation to a close.

“What this grand jury did and what Mike DeWine did, I think for the community was, he said, ‘Look, I’m going to have a grand jury.  I’m going to check everything out and, if there are any crimes, I’m going to charge people,'” said Fitzsimmons.

The school employees who were indicted last week were initially placed on administrative leave.  Two of the three were reinstated by the school board Tuesday night. They’re all scheduled to make court appearances on Friday, Dec. 6.

Two other people, an information technology director for Steubenville schools and his daughter, were indicted separately last month.  They have already pleaded not guilty to their charges.

(MetroNews policy is not to identify sexual assault victims unless they come forward publicly.)

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