STEUBENVILLE - Ma'Lik Richmond, a former Steubenville High School student-athlete convicted of raping a then-16-year-old Weirton girl, must register as a sex offender every six months for up to 20 years, Judge Thomas Lipps ruled Friday.
In March, Lipps found Richmond, 17, of Steubenville and fellow former student-athlete Trent Mays, 17, of Bloomingdale delinquent - the juvenile system's equivalent of a guilty verdict. Richmond was sentenced to at least a year in a juvenile facility. Mays received a minimum two-year sentence because he also was convicted of sending a cell phone photo of the naked girl.
During the hearing inside Jefferson County Juvenile Court on Friday, Lipps classified Richmond as a Tier II sex offender. A Tier III classification would require Richmond to register with the county sheriff's department every 90 days for life, while Tier I would require him to register once annually for 10 years.
Richmond will not appear in an online sex offender registry, however, as is the case for adult offenders. He can seek to have the court reduce the classification to Tier I or remove it altogether after serving a portion of his sentence.
Lipps again said he intends to authorize transferring Richmond from the Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility near Cleveland to Lifehouse Youth Center at Paint Creek in Bainbridge, Ohio, which he said offers a superior sex offender rehabilitation program. The transfer would move Richmond from a facility where he is among about 60 youths who sleep in bunk beds in the same room to a private room at Paint Creek.
The Ohio Department of Youth Services must approve the move.
Ohio Assistant Attorney General Brian Deckert argued to have Richmond classified under the strictest classification, Tier III. The defense lobbied for a Tier I classification and called for the testimony of a psychologist to help make their case.
Dr. Tyffani Dent testified there is no research indicating that sex offender registration reduces already minimal recidivism rates among juveniles convicted of sex crimes. The requirement to register can also cause depression, anxiety and isolation among the offenders, Dent added.
Lipps granted the prosecution's objection to Dent offering her personal opinion of what classification Richmond should receive. And under questioning from Deckert, Dent admitted she does not believe juveniles should be forced to register as sex offenders at all.
State Assistant Public Defender Brooke Burns also pointed to reports prepared by Department of Youth Services staff that represent Richmond has shown empathy toward the victim and displayed attentiveness and growth in his rehabilitation program.
The victim's mother was present in the courtroom with other members of the girl's family Friday, but she did not deliver a statement like she did at Mays' classification hearing in June. Richmond's biological parents were also in the courtroom, along with the boy's former adoptive parents. Mays' mother, as well as one of his sisters, attended as well.
Richmond exchanged hugs with his family before being taken away from the courtroom. His attorney, Walter Madison, held the back of Richmond's neck as he whispered a final message in the boy's ear.
The judge also classified Mays as a Tier II sex offender in June. Also in that case, the prosecution sought the most stringent, Tier III classification, while the defense requested a Tier I classification. Lipps also authorized the conditional transfer of Mays to the Paint Creek facility at that hearing.
Richmond was to be classified in June as well, but his hearing was continued after Madison filed several motions, including an unsuccessful challenge of the constitutionality of the juvenile sex offender classification system.
Friday's hearing ended Mays' and Richmonds' year-long case at least until they complete their sentences and probationary periods. A special grand jury empaneled to investigate whether other crimes were committed surrounding the case, however, has dragged on since it first convened in April, and recently adjourned for another of what has become several breaks.