Nightly News   |  March 17, 2013

Guilty verdicts in Steubenville rape trial

Two Ohio high school football players were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. NBC’s Ron Allen reports.

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>>> today for two steubenville , ohio high school football players in the rape of a 16-year-old girl. the crime took place against the backdrop of an alcohol-fueled night of partying. later amplified by tweets, posted photos and video. it left the town of steubenville deeply divided and in many ways tonight stands as a cautionary tale to a generation that's come of age in the era of social networking . nbc's ron allen is in steubenville for us again tonight. ron?

>> reporter: good evening, lester. malik richmond and trent mays must now register as sex offenders . they could be in juvenile detention until they're 1 years old. the judge convicted them based on eyewitness testimony and thousands of text messages, many of them quite graphic, discussing the rape of a 16-year-old girl.

>> many of the things that we learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly.

>> reporter: as the judge read the guilty verdict, the defendants embraced their relatives and cried openly. the victim was not in the courtroom when the ruling was read. for the first time since that august night of heavy drinking and party hopping captured in these images that spread across social media , both boys apologized.

>> i would truly like to apologize to our families, my family and the community.

>> reporter: richmond spoke directly to the victim's family.

>> i had no intention to do anything like that.

>> reporter: the victim's mother responded in an audiotape.

>> this does not define who my daughter is. she will persevere, grow and move on. i have pity for you both. i hope you fare the lord, repent for your actions and pray hard for his forgiveness.

>> reporter: both boys had promising football careers, mays a the quarterback, richmond the receiver, on the beloved high school team and dreams of college. in court their lawyers and parents plead with the judge not to impose a harsh sentence.

>> i'm sure malik will learn a valuable lesson from this. your honor, i beg you in the name of god, for leniency for malik.

>> reporter: prosecutor insist the victim had had been humiliated and treated like a toy. on the witness stand she admit drinking heavily at a party, then waking up the following morning with no clothes on and with no idea what had happened. she had texted mays , why the [ bleep ] would you let that happen, seriously. you have no [ expletive respect."

>> she's probably fearful going to school monday, tuesday, wednesday.

>> reporter: the town hopes the harsh spotlight here ends.

>> i believe that justice was served. sgli personally felt that it was an adult crime and they should have been charged as such.

>> reporter: meanwhile, state prosecutors announced a grand jury will investigate whether anyone else should be prosecuted.

>> what happened here is shocking. what's even more shocking and appalling is that crimes of sexual assault are occurring every friday night, every saturday night across this country.

>> reporter: possible charges could include destroying evidence by deleting cell phone images taken that night or failure to report that a crime was taking place. many people here are expressing outrage that so many underage teenagers were drinking so much alcohol that night and no parents or adults did anything to stop them. lester?