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Steubenville Rape Trial Verdict To Be Handed Down Today

03/17/2013 09:21 am ET

By Drew Singer

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, March 17 (Reuters) - A judge was set to render his verdict on Sunday in the rape trial of two Ohio high school football players charged with assaulting a 16-year-old girl while she was in a drunken stupor in a case that gained national exposure through social media.

The non-jury trial neared its conclusion late on Saturday after four days of testimony capped by the accuser's tearful acknowledgment on the witness stand that she had little memory from the night of the alleged assaults.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers then rested their cases and delivered closing arguments before Judge Tom Lipps adjourned the proceedings for the night. He said he would weigh the evidence and announce his verdict in court at 10 a.m. local time on Sunday.

Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, two members of the Steubenville High School football team, are charged as juveniles with raping a girl by digital penetration during the early-morning hours of Aug. 12, 2012, while she was passed out from heavy drinking at a party.

If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to a juvenile detention facility until they turn 21, and be required to register as sex offenders.

Mays and Richmond have denied raping their accuser and say that any sexual contact that occurred was consensual.

The case drew national attention to the Ohio steel town of Steubenville, 40 miles (64 km) west of Pittsburgh, after photo and video images, as well as Twitter banter, were posted online appearing to document the alleged assault and its aftermath.

In her testimony on Saturday, the accuser recounted drinking vodka mixed with slushy-iced beverages the night of the party, then finding herself sitting on a curb early the next day with her hands between her legs, vomiting into the street.

She testified that she otherwise had no recollection of what happened during the time span in between, when witnesses in the case have said she was too drunk to move or talk.

Under its policy of keeping the names of accusers in rape cases confidential, Reuters has not identified the girl.

Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter argued that the very things that made the accuser "an imperfect witness (also) made her, in every sense of the word, a perfect victim."

"She was substantially impaired, and they treated her like a toy," the prosecutor said.

Defense attorney Walter Madison countered by highlighting inconsistencies in the accounts of various witnesses, one of whom he accused of taking part in assaulting the girl, then cooperating with prosecutors under a grant of immunity. (Writing by James B. Kelleher; editing by Steve Gorman and Xavier Briand)

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