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Steubenville Rape Accuser Told Friend She Couldn’t Remember What Happened

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(STEUBENVILLE, Ohio) -- A former friend of the alleged victim in the Steubenville, Ohio, rape trial took the stand Saturday morning, saying the 16-year-old girl originally told her she could not remember what happened the night of the alleged attack by two high school football players, but said she swore "we didn't have sex."

The witness, who ABC News has chosen not to identify because she is a minor, gave an account of what she remembered from the night of the alleged incident. She said she no longer speaks to the accuser.

The girl testified that when she went to the first party with the alleged victim and another friend, the three of them drank slushies with vodka in them. She also said she saw the accuser drink alcohol straight from a bottle twice at the party.

The girl said she "noticed she was very drunk" at the first party the two attended together with another friend.

"She was rolling around on the ground," she said.

She testified that she had seen the alleged victim drink like this before and that it was "not really" out of character for her.

The witness said she has known the alleged victim since preschool and would have considered her a best friend. She said that some people believe the accuser has a reputation of being a liar.

The girl testified she went down to the basement of the house in which the party was held because the main floor was too crowded, but said she went up every five minutes to check on the alleged victim. She said at one point she saw her close to one of the defendants, 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond.

"She was just like leaning on him, standing next to him, and talking to him," she said.

Prosecutors accuse Richmond and Trent Mays, 17, of using their fingers to vaginally penetrate the girl at an alcohol-fueled party in Steubenville on the night of Aug. 11, as other teenagers watched. Mays is also accused of later sending text messages that included photographs of the girl with her clothing removed and is charged with distributing nude images of a minor.

Brian Duncan, a lawyer representing Mays, said simply: "Trent Mays did not rape the young lady in question."

Richmond, in an exclusive interview recently with 20/20 anchor Elizabeth Vargas, said, "I didn't rape anybody. I didn't witness a rape going on."

"And if I would have thought that somebody was being raped or anything like that, I would have stopped it," he said.

In her testimony Saturday, the witness said that by the end of the evening, the alleged victim was mean to her.

"She was like snapping at what I would say," the girl said. "If I would tell her to stop drinking, she would get mad at me."

The former friend said she tried to get the accuser to stay at the party, even holding on to her in protest, but "she kind of just swung her arm back and hit me."

"When I told her not to leave, she wouldn't listen to me," she said. "I was trying to get her to stay."

The witness said Richmond was standing by the alleged victim while this was happening, but did not say or do anything.

The next morning, the girl testified, she went to pick up the alleged victim from the house where she slept, and also gave Richmond and Mays a ride.

She said neither the accuser nor the defendants seemed upset in the car.

Once the football players left the car, she testified that she yelled at the girl because she was upset with "her actions from the night before."

Both the prosecution and the defense jousted in court during the girl's testimony this morning in attempts to paint a clearer picture of the alleged victim's character.

Walter Madison, the lawyer representing Richmond, repeatedly asked the witness on the stand whether listening to her police statement again would refresh her memory of that evening. He made a motion to Judge Thomas Lipps to play a portion of her interview in court, which was denied.

But when she was cross examined by Mays' attorney and could not answer a question that referred to her police interview, the judge said he would permit the girl to listen to the audio recording when the court recessed for a one-hour break.

Saturday's testimony picked up following a late court session that went past 10:30 p.m. Friday evening. The court recessed after the examination of J.P. Rigaud, who was the lead detective on the case with the Steubenville Police Department, was complete.

Rigaud testified Friday that in collecting cell phones for evidence, he uncovered three pictures of the alleged victim. One of photos shows the alleged victim being held by Richmond and Mays by her arms and legs and appearing unconscious. It was taken by 18-year-old Cody Saltsman, posted to Instagram and widely disseminated. Saltsman was not implicated in the alleged sexual assault and has not been charged with any crime.

Richmond told ABC News' Elizabeth Vargas that the alleged victim was joking around in Saltsman's picture.

But the other two photos, which were not posted publicly, came from Mays' phone.

In one of the pictures, the alleged victim is seen lying face down, and another hand is seen in the photo.

When asked about the hand in the photo, Rigaud testified "it was darker."

Rigaud also gave an account of his initial interview with the alleged victim in which she describes herself on the night of the incident saying she was "not sober, but was OK."

When Rigaud was cross examined by Madison, he asked him why he did not collect a DNA sample from 18-year-old Evan Westlake, who was present in all three locations that evening.

Westlake had not been interviewed by authorities until October, prior to the probable cause hearing. While Rigaud said he had spoken with the teen's attorney, ultimately, he was unable to get a sample from him.

Under pressure from Madison, Rigaud said that while he could have gotten a search warrant, he did not pursue Westlake further.

If convicted, Richmond and Mays could serve prison time until they turn 21.

The case drew further attention when some outside the small rustbelt town accused local officials of willfully protecting the football players, who they say are seen as hometown heroes.

 

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

 

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