COLUMBUS, Ohio - The state attorney general says the trial of two high school football players charged with raping a 16-year-old girl should be closed to the public to protect her, a sentiment supported by the accuser, her parents and one of the defendants.
News organizations including The Associated Press lined up on the other side of the debate Wednesday, arguing that openness is the best way to ensure public confidence in the proceedings.
Judge Thomas Lipps is set to hold a hearing Friday to take testimony from both sides, then decide. The judge has already rejected a request to try the two players separately.
The football players are accused of attacking the girl twice after an alcohol-fueled party in mid-August in Steubenville in far eastern Ohio. Three other students who witnessed the attack but weren't charged are expected to testify at next month's trial. The girl attends a different high school across the river in West Virginia.
The girl and her parents want the trial closed to keep evidence that a judge might rule inadmissible from becoming public, their attorney argued in a court filing Tuesday. That could include "harmful" and "legally non-relevant" evidence, said attorney Robert Fitzsimmons.
Keeping the hearing closed will also protect the girl, who has maintained her anonymity through the proceedings, Fitzsimmons said.
"Closure will help to preserve that anonymity," Fitzsimmons wrote.
The Associated Press generally doesn't identity people who say they are the victims of sexual assault.
Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office is prosecuting the case, said Wednesday that he has met with the girl and she's "doing OK."
"We're dealing with a 16-year-old victim," DeWine said. "It's difficult enough for her to testify without testifying in front of the whole world."