Activists from the online group KnightSec and Anonymous protest Saturday at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio. (Photo: Michael D. McElwain, AP)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The trial of two high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl should be closed to the public to protect the victim, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Wednesday.
DeWine, whose office is prosecuting the case, said he's met with the girl and she's "doing OK." He made his comments two days before a judge will rule on defense requests to delay, move and close the trial.
"We're dealing with a 16-year-old victim," DeWine said. "It's difficult enough for her to testify without testifying in front of the whole world."
The football players are accused of attacking the girl twice after an alcohol-fueled party in mid-August in Steubenville in far eastern Ohio. Three other students who witnessed the attack but were not charged are expected to testify at next month's trial.
DeWine said Wednesday the girl will testify whether the trial is closed or not. "She's doing OK," he said, when asked about his meeting with her.
"I just think it's the right thing to do under all the circumstances for it to be closed for her," DeWine said.
The lawyer for defendant Ma'Lik Richmond wants the trial closed out of concern that intense publicity and social media commentary could lead to witness intimidation. The attorney, Walter Madison, cited threats allegedly made by the hacker-activist group Anonymous to retaliate against people perceived as helping Richmond.
"If material witnesses are reluctant to testify, this will jeopardize Ma'Lik Richmond's constitutional rights to present a defense," Madison said in a Jan. 11 filing.
DeWine said he's not concerned about social media or Internet influence because the trial is being held before a judge.
"He's going to do what's right," DeWine said Wednesday.
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