A criminal trial in a small town in Ohio that received international attention thanks to social media reached a moment of some closure over the weekend. Judge Thomas Lipps found two high school football heroes guilty of rape. One boy, seventeen-year-old Trent Mays, is facing a minimum of two years of time in juvenile detention but may remain incarcerated until he is twenty-one. His cohort, sixteen-year-old Ma’lik Richmond, will be spending a year behind bars but also could be there until he turns twenty-one.
As you probably have read, and I have discussed before on this blog, these two teenagers performed sexual acts on a teenage girl who apparently was a good friend to both of them while she was extremely intoxicated and, in the words of one of the defendants, “like a dead body.”
One sadly has to wonder how often such events occur at high school parties. But this time, the actions of Mays and Richmond were caught in photographs and videos on cell phone cameras. One picture in particular, which showed the boys carrying the victim by her wrists and ankles, proved particularly damaging to their defense.
In addition to technology playing a pivotal role in capturing the crime itself, the news about the events and the investigation and subsequent trial to follow was spread across the internet through Facebook, a group called Anonymous that is known for social justice movements through hacking websites to spread a message, and other such methods. The actions of these boys, as well as all of those who watched and did nothing to stop them and those who went so far as to document the sexual assault, put this little town on the global radar for all the wrong reasons.
While the most important element of this story it that this teenage girl received justice, a sub-plot has to be our 24/7 media culture and how the possibility that you could be videotaped at any moment can change the course of your life.
Do you think that the social media culture has taken away personal privacy?