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ABC News Exclusive: Steubenville Rape Suspect Opens Up

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Ma'lik Richmond, a high school sophomore football player in Steubenville, Ohio, is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl from across the Ohio River in West Virginia while at a party with several other teenage boys.

The case has created a firestorm in the small football-obsessed city stoked by allegations that officials protected Steubenville football players at the expense of the alleged victim.  Residents there follow the storied Big Red high school football team religiously.  It is a program that Richmond, 16, had dreamed of joining and, on the night of Aug. 11, 2012, he relished the role he played in their first scrimmage win.

"I had two touchdowns and the fans were screaming and cheering," Richmond told ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas in an exclusive interview with 20/20 given a little more than a week before his trial, which begins on Wednesday.  "I was just thinking, 'I just can't wait for the season to start.'"

It's no surprise that he was in a celebratory mood.  But even Richmond admits that some of what happened at the parties he and several of his teammates attended that night crossed the line.

"I knew one person had a fake I.D.," Richmond said.  "People had Bud Light Platinum, and different variety of beers and vodka.  Everybody was drinking."

But, Richmond insists, that was the only crime committed that night.

Prosecutors will argue that the young girl who was allegedly raped was intoxicated and beyond the point of consent when Richmond and teammate Trent Mays, 17, allegedly used their hands to penetrate her vaginally.  In Ohio, as in many states, that constitutes the crime of rape.

"The state doesn't have to prove that she was flat-lined, but it's clear during both of these digital penetrations she was not in the state to consent," Prosecutor Marianne Hemmeter said at a probable cause hearing in October.

The alleged victim's civil attorney also insists it would have been impossible for his client to consent that night.

"My client was unconscious that night.  She doesn't have any memory of what happened," Bob Fitzsimmons told 20/20.

ABC News does not name the victims of alleged sexual assaults.

Richmond says he was stunned to get a text from a friend three days after the party saying that one of the girls present that night had accused him of rape.

"I just texted him, like, 'What are you talking about?  Stop playing with me,'" he said.

Watch the full story on ABC's 20/20 Friday, March 22, at 10 p.m. ET.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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