published Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

2 girls charged with threatening Ohio rape victim

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, right, answers questions about the successful prosecution of two juveniles in a rape case during a news conference Sunday, March 17, 2013, at the Jefferson County Justice Center in Steubenville, Ohio. Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter and Prosecutor Brian Deckert joined DeWine. Judge Thomas Lipps ruled Sunday that Steubenville High School students Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were guilty of raping a 16-year-old Weirton, W.Va., girl after an alcohol-fueled party in August 2012. (AP Photo/Steubenville Herald-Star, Michael D. McElwain, Pool)
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, right, answers questions about the successful prosecution of two juveniles in a rape case during a news conference Sunday, March 17, 2013, at the Jefferson County Justice Center in Steubenville, Ohio. Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter and Prosecutor Brian Deckert joined DeWine. Judge Thomas Lipps ruled Sunday that Steubenville High School students Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were guilty of raping a 16-year-old Weirton, W.Va., girl after an alcohol-fueled party in August 2012. (AP Photo/Steubenville Herald-Star, Michael D. McElwain, Pool)
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A day after two high school football players were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl, authorities arrested two Ohio girls suspected of making online threats against the accuser.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the girls arrested Monday posted threatening comments on Twitter on Sunday, the day the players were convicted in Steubenville. One of the messages was later reposted on Facebook.

The rape case brought international attention to the small city of 18,000 and led to allegations of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville High School football team.

Steubenville police Capt. Joel Walker said the Jefferson County girls, ages 15 and 16, were being held in juvenile detention.

The older girl was charged with aggravated menacing for a tweet that threatened homicide and said "you ripped my family apart," according to the attorney general's office. A Twitter message from the younger girl threatened the accuser with bodily harm, leading to a menacing charge, the office said.

"These arrests, I hope, will end the harassment of the victim," DeWine said. "We are simply not going to tolerate this. Enough is enough."

The guilty verdict was barely an hour old Sunday when DeWine said he was continuing his investigation and would consider charges against anyone who failed to speak up after the attack last August. That group could include other teens, parents, school officials and coaches for the high school's beloved football team, which has won nine state championships.

A grand jury will meet in mid-April to consider evidence gathered by investigators from dozens of interviews, including with the football program's 27 coaches, which include junior high, freshman and volunteer coaches.

Text messages introduced at trial suggested the head coach was aware of the rape allegation early on. Reno Saccoccia "took care of it," defendant Trent Mays said in one text introduced by prosecutors.

DeWine said coaches are among officials required by state law to report suspected child abuse. Saccoccia has not commented.

Steubenville city manager Cathy Davison said residents want to see justice done, and the city will be better off going forward because of the wider investigation.

Steubenville schools Superintendent Mike McVey released a statement Monday reiterating his position that the district was waiting until the trial ended to take action. He declined to address the grand jury investigation.

It's unclear what could happen to the school's sports programs if coaches were charged. Sanctions against teams or programs typically involve violations of rules related to playing, such as improper recruiting of student-athletes or playing ineligible athletes, said Tim Stried, spokesman for the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Mays and Ma'Lik Richmond were charged with penetrating the West Virginia girl with their fingers, first in the back seat of a moving car after a mostly underage drinking party on Aug. 11, and then in the basement of a house.

Mays, 17, and Richmond, 16, were sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison for the rapes. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked.

They can be held until they turn 21.

Special Judge Thomas Lipps recommended the boys be assigned to Lighthouse Youth Center-Paint Creek in Chillicothe which he said has a strong program for treating juvenile sex offenders.

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