Ohio says keep ex-high school athlete on sex offender list

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A man convicted as a juvenile of raping a 16-year-old girl has consistently tried to minimize his involvement in the crime and should remain on Ohio's sex offender registry, state prosecutors argue.

At issue is a request by former Steubenville High School football player Ma'Lik Richmond to be removed from the list with his prison time and parole completed.

The Ohio Attorney General's Office says Richmond tried to escape responsibility for his actions from the beginning when he lied to police about not having a cell phone. Only a search of other phones led to evidence of Richmond's guilt, the state said.

"Richmond has sought to minimize his involvement and avail himself of the absolutely least amount of personal accountability for his actions," Angela Canepa, an assistant Attorney General working as a special prosecutor, said in a Feb. 22 filing in Jefferson County juvenile court.

Richmond has portrayed himself as a victim of the criminal justice system and sought the lowest possible punishment for his actions, including categories on the sex offender list, Canepa said.

Richmond, now 21, was convicted in 2013 of raping the West Virginia girl at a party that followed a football scrimmage the previous year. He served nine months in detention, nine months on parole, and later rejoined the Steubenville football team. He went on to play at Youngstown State University.

After his conviction, Richmond was ordered to register his address every six months for the next 20 years. In 2014, Judge Thomas Lipps agreed to reclassify him so that he has to register only once a year for the next decade.

Lipps heard arguments from both sides at a Thursday hearing, with a decision expected in the next few weeks.

Richmond's attorneys say he successfully served his punishment and parole and is fully rehabilitated.

They said Richmond earned the respect of detention staff, mentors, treatment providers and community members along the way, and nothing in his record suggests he'll commit another crime.

Richmond's "progress reflects that the juvenile system has accomplished exactly what it is supposed to in this case — rehabilitation," state public defenders Brooke Burns and Katherine Sato argued in a March 19 court filing.

The 2012 case drew international attention because of the role of social media publicizing the assault, initial allegations of a cover-up by local authorities and frustration that more football players weren't charged.

Last year, Youngstown State sidelined Richmond after getting backlash about his playing football. After Richmond sued, a settlement with the university allowed him to stay on the active roster.

As that controversy played out, Richmond's father, Nathaniel Richmond, was killed in August 2017 in an unrelated confrontation when he shot a judge in a courthouse parking lot and a probation officer returned fire. The judge had been overseeing a wrongful death lawsuit the father filed against a housing authority.