US & Canada

Ohio footballers rape trial to stay in Steubenville

Protesters gathered in front of the of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, 5 January 2013
Image caption Protesters outside a Steubenville court this month allege a cover-up in the case

An Ohio judge has ruled that the rape trial of two high school football players will take place in the county where the alleged attack happened.

Judge Thomas Lipps rejected arguments by defence lawyers that witnesses could face intimidation or harassment outside the courthouse in Steubenville.

The case has attracted attention due to social media and the high profile of the football team in the small town.

Judge Lipps also ruled the non-jury trial would be open to the public.

He did so over the objections of the family of the 16-year-old girl who was allegedly attacked.

She wanted to protect her identity and keep evidence that might eventually be ruled inadmissible from becoming public.

Trenton Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, both 16, deny the charges they face next month at a juvenile court.

Three other students who witnessed the alleged attack but were not charged are expected to testify at next month's trial.

Those witnesses include two who took a video and photograph, then deleted the images.

The Ohio attorney general's office told lawyers for those students last autumn that if the images had been found, they would have been charged.

Prosecutors say the girl, who went to a school across the river from the city in West Virginia, was attacked after an alcohol-fuelled party last August.

The case was thrust into the national spotlight after attention by bloggers and the hacker activist group Anonymous.

Some claimed that the community had sought to cover up the alleged crime in order protect the two accused.

The trial is set for 13 March.

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