STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - Attorneys for two high school football players accused of raping a 16-year-old girl after an alcohol-fueled party withdrew motions to dismiss the case after a judge determined the girl and two friends would be compelled to testify.
The trial, which began Wednesday morning in juvenile court in Steubenville, has drawn international attention over allegations that more students should have been charged and has led to questions about the influence of the local football team, a source of a pride in a community that suffered massive job losses with the collapse of the steel industry.
Attorneys for Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, deny the charges.
They sought to have the case dismissed after a judge in West Virginia initially rejected requests that the girl and two other juveniles from that state be called to testify at the trial in eastern Ohio. The judge reversed that ruling late Tuesday after hearing arguments on the matter.
The players' attorneys say the testimony from all three juveniles could bolster the defense.
Each teen is charged with digitally assaulting the West Virginia girl, first in the back seat of a moving car after a party Aug. 11, and then in the basement of a house. Mays also is charged with illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
Witnesses said the girl was so drunk she threw up at least twice and had trouble walking and speaking. She was also photographed being carried by the two young men.
In an excerpt of a videotaped interview with ABC's "20/20," Richmond said the photo was a joke. He contends the girl was awake and was a willing participant, the show said.
If convicted, Mays and Richmond could be held in a juvenile jail until they turn 21. They have denied any wrongdoing.
The Associated Press normally does not identify minors charged in juvenile court, but Mays and Richmond have been widely identified in news coverage, and their names have been used in open court.
They were charged 10 days after the party, after a flurry of social media postings about the alleged attack led the girl and her family to go to police.
Steubenville officials have protested that outsiders have unfairly criticized police handling of the case and have given Steubenville a black eye. Officials created a website to counter misinformation about the case, refuting, for example, the allegation that the police department is full of ex-football players from the local powerhouse team, nicknamed Big Red.
Hacker activists have publicized tweets and other social media postings made the night of the alleged rape, including a 12-minute video in which one student joked about the alleged attack while others in the background chimed in.
The National Organization of Women has demanded that the student be charged under the state's "failure to report" law. Attorney General Mike DeWine has called the video disgusting, but said the student didn't have firsthand knowledge of the alleged assaults.
Bob Fitzsimmons, a lawyer for the girl's family, said, "The family wants this matter over so they can move on with their lives and their daughter's healing."
Dozens of witnesses for both sides are expected to testify at the trial, which is being heard by a judge, not a jury. Their testimony is considered crucial because the girl was severely intoxicated that night and appeared to be passed out at times, according to several witnesses.
Associated Press writers Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, and Vicki Smith in Morgantown, W.Va., contributed to this report.