Last year, Ma’lik Richmond, along with Trent Mays, was found guilty of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl after a night of drinking at a party in Steubenville, Ohio.
The case received national attention after pictures surfaced of the two carrying the unconscious victim by her wrists and ankles. During the investigation, it also came to light that numerous officials and educators had tried to cover up the rape.
Both Richmond and Mays, who were 16-years old at the time of the incident, were found “delinquent beyond reasonable doubt,” which is the juvenile court equivalent of a guilty verdict. The two were handed mandated minimum sentences, with the possibility of remaining in custody until they turned 21.
Richmond, now 18-years old, was sentenced to one year in the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Detention Facility. He was released on January 5 of this year after serving nine of the 12 months. He is currently registered as a Tier II sex offender and must re-register every 180 days for 20 years, according to WTRF, but Richmond can request the sex offender classification removed after he completes rehabilitation.
Upon his release, Richmond’s attorney released a statement that described his client’s resilience, saying he “is a better, stronger person and looks forward to school, life, and spending time with his family. At this point, Ma’lik wants most to be a high school teenager.”
It looks like the Steubenville High School athletic department wanted that too, as Richmond is back on the school’s football team roster for the fall.
There is apparently no Ohio High State Athletic Association (OHSAA) rule against convicted sex offenders competing in high school sports. OHSAA Information Director Tim Stried said that it “is bound by Bylaw 451, which gives the school the authority to determine if the student can participate.”
Given that the school’s superintendent, wrestling coach, and volunteer football coach have all been charged and/or sentenced on charges related to trying to cover the case up for the boys involved, it was a safe assumption the school wouldn’t reject Richmond’s placement on the team.
Fred Abdalla, Jr., Jefferson County Chief Probation officer said he thought Richmond should be allowed to play. “There’s no law against it that states he can’t play,” Abdalla said. “There’s no OHSAA rules that they’d be violating … Ma’lik Richmond has done everything the court has asked him since he’s been sentenced.”
The problem with Richmond being allowed back on the team is it teaches that even if you are convicted of rape, your life can go back to normal and you can continue doing the things you love. The victim in this case probably wants to be a “high school teenager,” too. Knowing her rapist’s life is almost back to normal probably doesn’t help.
Amy is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @AEddings31.