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Steubenville rape trial to be open to media, court says

By David Ariosto, CNN
updated 11:23 AM EST, Thu January 31, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Judge Thomas Lipp postponed the hearing until March 13 and denied a change of venue
  • Images and social media messages are at the heart of the criminal charges
  • The case drew the attention of bloggers and even Anonymous, a cooperative of activist hackers

(CNN) -- An Ohio judge ruled Wednesday that the trial of two high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl, who was considered too drunk to resist, will be open to the media and the public, a court official said.

Judge Thomas Lipp also postponed a trial until March 13 and denied a change of venue request, according to Jefferson County Juvenile Court spokesman Fred Abdalla Jr.

Earlier this month, an attorney for Trent Mays -- one of two defendants in the case -- had asked for the change in venue given the case's "publicity and what we perceive as threats to individuals, perhaps witnesses, and also defendants and even defense counsel."

Attorney: Move trial, postpone it, close it

Innocent being blamed in Steubenville?

Media attention and an explosion of online postings about the Steubenville case are part of the reason, according to the attorney, Adam Nemann, who asserted his client's innocence.

Images and social media messages figure into the criminal charges against the two boys, which attracted the attention of bloggers and even Anonymous, a loosely organized cooperative of activist hackers.

But Lipp's decision Wednesday to open the rape trial to the media is considered largely "unusual in that traditionally juvenile proceedings have been shrouded in secrecy to protect children," said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.

Teen in video 'ashamed and embarrassed'

"Historically, most U.S. states have restricted public and press access to juvenile proceedings," Callan said. "In recent years, though, there has been a trend toward opening the secretive juvenile justice system to public scrutiny, especially where a serious felony has been charged."

Ohio state law permits courts to bar the press from proceedings if there is a basis to conclude that opening it to the pubic could harm the child or in some way jeopardize the trial.

The girl, whom CNN is not naming, was assaulted the night of August 11 and early the next morning, according to authorities.

Involved, they said, were members of the Steubenville High School football team, virtual demigods in the small town along the banks of the Ohio River. The boys deny the charges.

Police got involved on August 14, when the girl's mother came forward to report the alleged assault, according to Steubenville police Chief William McCafferty.

The family provided the image of a Twitter page, possibly with a photo, the chief told CNN.

CNN's Adam Reiss contributed to this report.

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