The nation's eyes will be focused this week on what happens inside a tiny Steubenville, Ohio, courthouse. The juvenile trial set to begin there is every parent's nightmare and a cautionary tale for teenagers living in today's digital world.
Steubenville is a town used to having media attention lavished on a much different building. In the middle of this city of 18,000 nestled on the Eastern border of Ohio stands Harding Stadium, the crown jewel of this former steel town. Nicknamed Death Valley, the 10,000-seat structure is home to the Big Red football team, one of Ohio's most storied high school programs.
Steubenville is a place where football is more than just a past time; it's a religion. And residents here worship on Friday nights.
Every time Big Red scores, a sculpture of a stallion named Man O' War breathes a 6-foot stream of fire into the night sky over Harding Stadium. But this past season, the team's second-round playoff defeat was overshadowed by a very different firestorm that engulfed the team and the entire town.
Just as the season was gearing up late last summer, two Big Red football players were accused of participating in the rape of a 16-year-old intoxicated girl with friends documenting the alleged crime through cellphone pictures and video. The social media frenzy took on a life of its own, with reports going as far as calling the incident a "gang-rape" of an unconscious girl. In reality, prosecutors contend that Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, used their hands to penetrate her while she was too drunk to consent, By Ohio law, such a crime constitutes rape, as it does in many places.
At least three other Steubenville students say they witnessed the alleged encounters, and still others heard about them and posted messages, photographs and videos about the incident on social media sites.
See the full story on ABC's "20/20" Friday, March 22, at 10 p.m.
The news soon spread beyond Steubenville, leading both hacker-activists and women's advocacy groups to blow the lid off the story nationally, questioning why people who knew about the allegations weren't also charged under an Ohio law requiring people to report crimes of which they're aware.