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Steubenville Teens Found Guilty Of Rape; Francis Delivered First Angelus Message From Papal Apartment

Aired March 17, 2013 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. A look at our top stories right now.

Guilty as charged. That's the verdict for two high school football players from Steubenville, Ohio. They were convicted today of raping a 16-year-old girl after a night heavy partying. Seventeen- year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma'lik Richmond broke down after the verdict was read. Richmond's mother openly wept.

And after the verdict was read, Richmond's father made an emotional plea to the judge and to the victim's family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATHANIEL RICHMOND, MA'LIK RICHMOND'S FATHER: I hope somewhere in your hearts that you can forgive Trent and Ma'lik for the pain that they have caused your daughter and put you through. And I know that God is - is --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Soon after the judge announced the boys' sentences, a minimum of one year for Richmond, two years for Mays, our Poppy Harlow was in the courtroom as all of this played out. She's joining us live right now. So Poppy, describe the atmosphere in the room as the verdict was read. Family members tried their hardest to plead for some forgiveness from the victim's family as well as from the judge.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's true, Fredricka, but this is an incredibly serious crime. It's the crime of rape. Both boys found guilty of raping this 16-year-old girl. One in a car, one in a basement as she lay naked on the floor, and they have been found guilty. So yes, it was incredibly emotional. It was difficult for anyone in there to watch those boys break down.

Also difficult, of course, for the victim's family. The mother of the victim was not in the room when that verdict was handed down, but she did come in a bit later to hear the sentencing. Other family members of the victim sitting there as well.

I want to take our viewers inside the courtroom to listen to the judge, Judge Thomas Lipps. A visiting judge from another county, came in to hear this case, made the final decision. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE THOMAS LIPPS: I closely examined all of the evidence, and I reread all of the text messages that were admitted in this case. Many of the things were learned during this trial that our children were saying and doing were profane, were ugly. With alcohol consumption shown as a particular danger to our teenagers.

Throughout a trial, the court is able to view the demeanor of the witnesses, judge their credibility, and weigh the evidence presented to the court. The court has done so in this case. And it is the court's decision that both of the defendants are hereby adjudicated delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on all three counts as charged. For those of you who are not familiar with adjudications of delinquency in juvenile law, it's similar to a finding of guilty in the adult court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So, guilty on all three counts. As soon as Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond heard that, you could see it in their faces. I was watching them across the courtroom. Ma'lik Richmond broke down first, really collapsing into the arms of his attorney next to him. Trent Mays also began crying. Then later, they stood up, Fredricka, and they apologized to the victim's family. Take a listen at both of them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MA'LIK RICHARDSON, CONVICTED DEFENDANT: I had no intention to do anything that night. I'm sorry to put you guys through this. I would just like (CRYING).

TRENT MAYES, CONVICTED DEFENDANT: I would truly like to apologize to (NAME DELETED) her family, my family and the community. (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: So as you could see, the remorse that they displayed. But after this verdict came down, we heard from the attorneys for the victims, her civil attorney saying that remorse just came far, far too late, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And at least one of the family members of the victims had something to say as well in court, right?

HARLOW: She did. The mother. The mother spoke, not in court, but after the sentencing, after the verdict, she gave us an audio statement. And I want to play that in its entirety for the viewers. This is really the first time we're hearing from the mother.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

STUBENVILLE RAPE VICTIM'S MOTHER: It did not matter what school you went to, what city you lived in or what sports you've played. Human compassion is not taught by a teacher, a coach, or a parent. It's a God-given gift instilled in all of us.

You displayed not only a lack of this compassion, but a lack of any moral code. Your decisions that night affected countless lives, including those most dear to you. You were your own accuser through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on.

This does not define who my daughter is. She will persevere, grow, and move on. I have pity for you both. I hope you fear the Lord, repent for your actions, and pray hard for His forgiveness.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

HARLOW: And even though you didn't see her on camera, you could hear there it in her voice, the pain of a mother whose daughter has been raped. Breaking down at the end there, saying she had pity on the boys.

You know, it's interesting, Fredricka. I told you I talked to the attorney for the victim after this. And he said that if perhaps the boys had come forward and had apologized to this, admitted to this earlier on to the family, perhaps they wouldn't be here in court today. He said they're a very religious family that may have been able to forgive and not take it to this point in time.

I now want to take our viewers back inside the courtroom for what we heard from Ma'lik Richmond's father. The judge asked if parents had any comments for the court before the sentencing was handed down, and here is part of what Ma'lik's father had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATHANIEL RICHMOND, MA'LIK RICHMOND'S FATHER: I'm sorry for what you all had to go through. I hope somewhere in your heart that you can forgive Trent and Ma'lik for the pain they have caused your daughter and put you through. And I know that God can give you that strength to forgive these two young men for the terrible mistake that they made. I apologize to the world, not only my community, for the bad light that has been shone upon Steubenville and everybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: And a short while after that, Frederika, Ma'lik's father, Nathaniel Richardson, came out here and he spoke with us live on CNN. And I want to bring some of that to our viewers. We had been told by Ma'lik's attorney in court that he heard the father whisper to his son after this verdict came down, "I love you." And that it was the first time that the son had heard that from his father. He came from a difficult up bringing, we're told.

And so I asked the father, is that the case? And what do you have to say about this? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATHANIEL RICHARDSON: Basically, because I haven't been around in Ma'lik's life like I should have been at those early years. And I want to stress that parents need to get involved more in their kids' lives, like someone mentioned. Be a parent and not a friend. And teach your kids what alcohol and drugs can do to destroy their lives. Teach your kids how to make decisions and to combat peer pressure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Bottom line, the decisions that were made that night were decisions that have now resulted in a guilty charge for both of these boys in terms of rape, raping this young girl. Now the process of recovery begins for this girl who is back in school, trying -- trying her hardest to live a normal life. For these two who have just been taken into custody and who will serve their time in a juvenile detention facility.

And frankly, Fredricka, for this town - I mean, you know the town has been thrown in the national spotlight, the global spotlight over this case. The town and its citizens now trying to rebuild.

WHITFIELD: And when we talk about the amount of time that these young men may be serving in the juvenile detention, there was a minimum of one year for one, two years for the other. But the maximum of up to 21 years of age, is that based on good behavior?

HARLOW: Yes, a very good question. It is. So what the judge said today in court is that Ma'lik Richmond will serve one year on that one count he was found guilty on. Trent Mays will serve two because he was found guilty of rape and also of taking that nude photograph of the victim that night. That gets him another year.

And then it's up to the juvenile detention facility workers how well-behaved do they think these boys are. Can they be let out after a year and two years respectively, or are they going to have to serve the whole term? So, it is about their behavior.

And the judge saying broadly to the court in this, this is a chance to reflect on behavior and to do better in the future and to rebuild yourselves and create a constructive life after this. But it is now really up to them because they could have gotten a much more severe sentence.

WHITFIELD: All right. Poppy Harlow, thanks so much from Steubenville, Ohio. A heartbreaking case no matter which way you look at it.

So, why were these teens tried in juvenile court instead of and adult court? We'll have our legal experts weigh in right after the break.

And Pope Francis is already being called a man of the people. We go to the streets with the new pontiff.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: We've been bringing you the details of the rape case that has rocked the town of Steubenville, Ohio and riveted the nation. Two teens have been found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl after a night of partying last summer. Ma'lik Richmond will spend at least one year, and Trent Mays two years at a juvenile correctional facility. But both could be in detention until they are 21 years old pending behavior.

The judge explained the difference between trying the teens in juvenile court versus adult court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDGE THOMAS LIPPS: Now of course, we're in juvenile court. And judges in juvenile court understand we're dealing with juveniles and we're dealing with people who might have emotions. Particularly upon a finding that I made this morning. That might now dawn on them.

When a judge in juvenile court enters a disposition, the judge must weigh three things. The protection of society, accountability for one's actions, and the further rehabilitation of our youth. And when we first started out, both of these defendants could have been tried in the adult court. If they were convicted in the adult court of these charges, they would be spending many years in an adult prison. But the court made the decision to keep this matter in the juvenile court.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The judge told the court that if the teens show signs of rehabilitation quickly, they could spend less time in detention.

Let's turn now to CNN legal contributor Paul Callan in New York and defense attorney Rachel Self in Boston. Good to see both of you.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Nice to be with you.

WHITFIELD: So Paul, let me begin with you. This was a guilty verdict based on testimony, texting, and photos. The judge said he considered all of that. Did one thing likely sway the judge more than most?

CALLAN: Well, I think it was a combination of factors, but the most important thing was the social media business that we've talked about was the most important thing. You know, this crime was essentially documented through the use of video on a smartphone and sent through the Internet. Twenty years ago, there would have been no evidence this crime had been committed because the victim had no recollection. So, social media has changed the entire landscape, and the judge referred to it saying he depended on text messages in supporting the conviction.

WHITFIELD: So, Rachel, do you see this kind of case is going to impact future cases that may involve social media?

RACHEL SELF, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, it absolutely will. And the issue you're dealing with here is that the social media became the evidence in the case when there wouldn't necessarily have been evidence in the case before. And in this case, the thing that blows my mind is that you had the Facebook and the Twittering and the texting. And everything that people in social media society says, well, I better put it out there, otherwise it didn't happen. Otherwise it's not real. And now the penalty that these boys are facing for not only their behavior but also publishing their behavior is very real.

WHITFIELD: And then looking at this videotape, this is one of the men, Ma'lik, appealing to the victim and the family. He was tearful. You have to wonder if these very apologetic and tearful pleas being made to the court did in any way influence this judge. He could have imposed a harsher penalty, couldn't he have, Paul?

CALLAN: Yes, they could have, and I think it did impact the judge. Bear in mind, these young men could have been tried as adults. They could have been facing 20 years in prison, in state prison, a really tough place. They were given a break because they were tried as juveniles, and you have a judge here who I think was responsive to their reaction.

And you know this sort of grim, tragic, tear-drenched scene is often seen in American courtrooms. It's not just televised. But there's always this moment of high drama when the verdict is announced. And we got a chance to actually have a look at it today.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it's tough to watch no matter which way you look at it. So, Rachel, I wonder, what was the factor in this case that made it one suitable for a juvenile proceeding versus an adult proceeding?

SELF: Well, under Ohio law, whether it's trialed in juvenile court or adult court, it's all regulated by statute. And what the Ohio statute says is that if you're an individual who commits a felony between the ages of 14 and 18 years old, a judge can determine in certain instances whether to try you as an adult or a juvenile. And one of the determining factors in that is prior DYS record and whether a firearm was utilzed in the commission of the offense.

So in this case, it doesn't -- what the children's records were prior to that, and obviously, there was not a firearm used in this offense, probably played into the judge's determination under his discretionary authority to try them in juvenile court.

WHITFIELD: And the judge even said neither one of them had any prior trouble, and he did use that as a factor as he was trying to weigh what is next for these young men. Thanks so much, Paul Callan and Rachel Self, good to see both of you.

CALLAN: Always nice being with you.

SELF: Thank you. Good to see you both.

WHITFIELD: And a rare sight in Vatican City. The pope hits the streets to meet his flock. Why Francis is already being called a man of the people.

And a reminder to watch CNN's new show, THE LEAD, with Jake Tapper. It starts tomorrow afternoon, 4:00 Eastern time. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: In Vatican City, Pope Francis delivered his first angelus message from his papal apartment this morning. More than 200,000 people filled St. Peter's Square for the historic occasion. In a rare moment, the pope walked outside the gates of the Santa Ana Parish to greet the crowd of cheering well wishers.

CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Vatican City. He shows us why people are calling this pope a man of the people.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, if Benedict was the intellectual's pope, Francis is quickly shaping up to become the people's pope.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(CHERRING)

WEDEMAN: It could be any church, the priest greeting worshipers one by one after Sunday mass. But it wasn't any church and it wasn't any priest. It was Pope Francis at the Santa Ana Parish Church in the Vatican. His charm offensive moving full steam ahead, he stepped outside the Vatican and into Italian territory to greet well wishers.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: I was watching some of the video when he came out of the church. Obviously, he's very personable, really connecting with the people.

WEDEMAN: In his first Sunday as pope, Francis appeared at the window of his papal apartment, overlooking a packed St. Peter's Square, speaking of forgiveness and compassion. And eliciting a laugh when he insisted he wasn't providing free advertising for a cardinal whose writing he praised. He ended his message with a simple wish. Have a good Sunday, and have a good lunch.

Just four days on the job, and Pope Francis is already shaking things up. Even his own television station. Vatican TV, is calling him the unpredictable pope. Maria Laordea DePrez (ph), an Argentinean like the pope, already feels closer to the church.

MARIA LAOREDA DEPREZ (PH): One of the problems that the Catholic Church has had is they were so high and were, you know, too low. So now, he's coming closer. We're very happy for that.

WEDEMAN: His personal style is going down well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He seems like a very nice guy, very humble, very down to earth.

WEDEMAN: With a new hand at the Vatican's helm, the faithful are dancing to a new rhythm.

(END VIDEOTAPE) WEDEMAN: And it's a rhythm that might bring new life to a church in need of change. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much. Ben Wedeman there in Vatican City.

Also, 4:00 Eastern hour, please join us. We're going to talk some more about the pope of the people. Pope Francis. New York cardinal Timothy Dolan will be joining us to talk about his impressions of the new pope.

All right. NCAA March Madness is here! Today is election day. The 68 teams vying for college basketball's biggest prize will be announced, and that means you can start filling out your brackets tonight. And you can test your bracket skills against me and other CNN anchors in the official NCAA March Madness Bracket Challenge Game. Go to CNN.com/brackets and join the CNN group to see if you can pick the NCAA brackets better than me. I challenge you.

And we're getting into the madness just a few floors down in the CNN Center. Take a look. Standing 20 feet tall and 40 feet wide, is our very own NCAA tournament bracket. In the mornings, the teams will be filled in on that giant board you see being erected there. It will have live updates throughout the tournament. There are five brackets just like this in major cities participating across the country. Look out for them.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: And I'll be back at 4:00 Eastern time. Coming up, we'll have more reaction from that guilty verdict in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. But first, THE NEXT LIST. Right now on CNN.