Royal Mayo, formerly the president of the Steubenville, Ohio NAACP chapter, defended Steubenville High School students Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond during an interview with the International Business Times, questioning the victim’s actions on the night of the assault, and the choices made by prosecutors in the case. Mayo suggested that she might have willingly submitted to the sexual acts, despite evidence that she was unconscious for much of the night.
“They’re alleging she got raped; she’s acknowledging that she wanted to leave with Trent. Her friends say she pushed them away as she went and got into the car, twice telling them, ‘I know what I’m doing; I’m going with Trent,’” Mayo told IBT.
“Back in August, when the rumors first started going around, I talked to Ma’lik, and he said, ‘No, Mr. Mayo, we didn’t do anything to that girl. I don’t know what these rumors are; I don’t understand it,’” he added.
Mayo admitted having personal ties to Richmond and his family, and characterized both boys as scapegoats. A handful of teens have been implicated in the assault, some of whom took photos and videos as the girl’s unconscious body was being moved. However, only Mays and Richmond have been charged so far.
“It’s like these two were sacrificed,” Mayo said. “The poor black kid and the white kid who is from the next county.”
Several students and adults accused of trying to cover up the rape might still face criminal charges. Mayo sympathized with high school football coach Reno Saccoccia who did not suspend any of the players involved during the fall football season, despite allegedly having direct knowledge of the incident, based on texts traded between the students.
Mayo, who has known Saccocia for 40 years, said that the coach did his best “to keep black kids out of harm’s way and white kids honestly.”
The NAACP has already moved to distance itself from Mayo’s inflammatory comments, contacting several media outlets directly.
“The NAACP abhors the remarks attributed to Royal Mayo regarding the rape victim in the Steubenville. The remarks are Mayo’s own, and do not reflect the position of the NAACP and its membership,” a statement from the organization said. “Rape is a despicable crime of violence. The NAACP understands that comments that blame victims for the actions of their attackers contribute to and perpetuate a culture of acquiescence to rape .”