A man convicted as a teen in the Steubenville rape case will be temporarily reinstated on the Youngstown State University football team after he filed a lawsuit against the school.
Ma’lik Richmond was granted a temporary restraining order against the university by an Ohio judge on Thursday, allowing him to play football again for the next 14 days.
U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson has scheduled a preliminary hearing for an injunction on Sept. 28.
Richmond filed the federal lawsuit on Wednesday after the school allowed him to join the football team as a walk-on and then told him he couldn’t play this season. He’s seeking reinstatement along with lawyer fees and an unspecified amount of damages.
Lawyer Susan Stone states in the lawsuit that Youngstown State had become infected with an anti-male bias due to Richmond’s rape conviction.
Stone argued that the university was obliged to allow Richmond to play so long as he followed university rules.
“This is his time to shine,” Stone said. “Every opportunity to play is crucial.”
Youngstown State University is appealing the judge’s decision.
Former Steubenville High School football player Ma’lik Richmond served time for rape.
“Proving no deed goes unpunished,” the school has been “hauled into court by a student that YSU has bent over backward to assist, support and provide a second chance when no one else would,” the state attorney general said on behalf of the university.
“The rest of the world had written Plaintiff off as an unrepentant rapist, but YSU encouraged him and integrated him as ‘part of the student community,'” read the AG’s reply.
Reacting to the AG’s statement, Stone said: “I am frankly shocked at what I’m starting to read. They don’t understand how they threw someone under the bus.”
Richmond served 10 months in a juvenile prison after he and a Steubenville High School teammate were convicted in 2013 of raping a 16-year-old girl. The case brought international attention and led to allegations of a coverup to protect the football team.
After his release, Richmond attended colleges in West Virginia and Pennsylvania before transferring to Youngstown State in the fall of 2016 as a sophomore.
Richmond made the team as walk-on defensive end in January. According to the lawsuit, Richmond shined during Youngstown State’s spring game and was told by football coach Bo Pelini he would play this season.
A female student at Youngstown State would begin circulating a petition calling for the school to not allow Richmond to play.
Richmond reacts as the verdict is read in the juvenile court in Steubenville in 2013.
Pelini called Greg Agresta, one of Richmond’s guardians, according to the lawsuit, and said there was pressure being exerted on the university’s Board of Trustees. Pelini told Agresta that Youngstown President Jim Tressel proposed that Richmond become a practice player and wait until next season to play.
Youngstown State would say in a statement that the school takes sexual assault very seriously, and that Richmond would be allowed to continue practicing with the team but would lose a year of eligibility.
Richmond quit the team after learning of the statement.
“It’s a little bit of beating a dead horse in a way,” Steubenville resident Guy Forcone told WFMJ. “A lot of people still do, but the guy paid his dues, he did his time. Let him get on with his life.”
“He did everything he was supposed to do,” local resident Jabo Callas told the station. “Now he goes back to YSU and I think the kid needs a second chance. He’s a good kid. He’s not a bad kid.”
Richmond’s father was shot and killed last month in Steubenville after authorities said he shot at a judge who returned fire. Judge Joseph Bruzzese, who survived, was overseeing a wrongful death lawsuit that 51-year-old Nathaniel Richmond filed against a housing authority following the death of two relatives in a 2015 house fire.
With News Wire Services