The former guardians of Ma’lik Richmond, a teen football player who is facing sexual assault charges for allegedly raping a 16-year-old girl at a high school party this summer, came to his defense on “The Today Show” this morning.
In August, members of the Steubenville High School football in Ohio team sexually abused an unconscious drunk girl, carrying her to multiple parties where she was raped and peed upon. The victim was also photographed while being violated and carried around the party and images were posted on Twitter and other social media sites. Two football players from the team, Richmond and another student, Trenton Mays, were arrested and charged with rape and kidnapping, although many other students were at the party and witnessed the assault.
Amidst concerns that Steubenville has been pooh-poohing the rape accusations to protect their star football team, last week, the hactivist group Anonymous released a disturbing video online in which other Steubenville kids — in particular, one former student named Michael Nodianos — joke repeatedly about raping the “dead girl.” Bitch Magazine has a pretty comprehensive background of the entire shitshow that has ensued since.
Ma’lik Richmond, 16, is accused of sexually assaulting the victim while she was passed out in a basement, according to prosecutors. He will be tried as a juvenile and goes to trial in February. Yet despite the fact that Ma’lik was arrested and charged for rape and kidnapping (he pleaded not guilty), “The Today Show” gave his former guardians Jennifer and Greg Agresta, and their attorney Walter Madison, a platform to defend him. Currently, Ma’lik is under house arrest inside their home although they’re no longer his legal gaurdians. As reporter Ron Allen puts it, “They feel he hasn’t been getting a fair hearing in the court of public opinion”
Jennifer Agresta describes Ma’lik as “laid back” and “not outspoken”; both guardians called the rape accusations “out of character” for the teen boy. Greg Agresta added that he was “disappointed with the judgment at that point in time” because “that’s not the type of person that he is.”
“Today”‘s reporter repeated the defending attorney’s claims that “everything that happened was consensual” and “no force was involved,” which cannot possibly be true if the 16-year-old girl was unconscious from drinking and unable to give consent. You cannot give consent while you are unconscious. Sexual acts performed on an unconscious person are sexual assault. Yet there the Agrestas and their lawyer are, trying to make it sound — unconvincingly, I might add — like this is all some big misunderstanding because Ma’lik is such a great kid.
I can understand emotionally why Ma’lik’s former guardians feel pulled to support this young man, whom they’ve known since he was an eight-year-old kid from a troubled home. The Agrestas told ”Today” that no matter what happens to Ma’lik, whether he is convicted or not, they love and support him. I was actually quite touched when Greg Agresta vowed they won’t “bail” on him when things get rough, like so many people in our culture do today. In that way, they are being good parental figures to Ma’lik.
But they’re also hurting victims everywhere by trying to portray someone who has actually been charged with rape and kidnapping as being a nice guy. It’s not like he was accused on some random Tumblr of being a potential jerk; he has been charged with rape by police. Lauer asked the Agrestas they’ve had “that hard talk with him” and asked him straight-up what happened on the night of the party. Jennifer Agresta replied, “No, because it doesn’t matter to us, we love him, irregardless [sic] of what happened that night.” To us are the key words in that sentence: Ma’lik’s alleged rape may not matter to his family that loves him, but it does matter to the rest of Americans. It matters to me. It matters to the young woman who has been victimized. It matters to all rape victims who may watch a morning news program and envision their rapist being defended as “laid-back,” and that committing the act of sexual violence was “out of character.”
Matt Lauer asked the Agrestas if they think he was involved in the sexual assault. Both Agrestas fall silent. Their lawyer Walter Madison jumps in and says, “That’s a very difficult question for them.” Pressed by Lauer, Madison admits Ma’lik is in the infamous photo of the unconscious victim being carried around by her arms and legs, but tries to downplay the accusations as a big fuss over nothing. Madison then has the gall to actually say that in conjunction with the “dead girl” joke video featuring Michael Nodianos — which Ma’lik was not involved in — people’s anger has gone “way out of proportion.”
Oh really? What sort of anger towards gang rape of an unconscious woman is in proportion? Please tell us, Walter Madison.
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